Based on my own novels, some elements of a possible framework for writing aimed at sparking future narratives in readers.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
In my article Stories for the Future, I wrote: By hinting at possible narratives, fiction can be a powerful tool for change. The individual can explore alternative visions both emotionally and intellectually and discover creative ways forward in a relatively safe space. Of course, not all that happens in novels is feasible, nor is it necessarily desirable. In addition, not all fiction opens vistas on the future. That raises the question of what constitutes a suitable framework within which such stories can develop. Having said that, I examined my own writing and asked myself about the nature of stories for the future. After a considerable struggle trying to make explicit that which had hitherto remained implicit, I came up with the following list that is necessarily provisional and incomplete, but which reflects some of the ways I approach this challenge.
- A message does not constantly elbow itself to the fore. Were it to do so, the reader would likely lose interest. Storytelling is not school with its lessons or an advertising campaign plastered at every street corner or the incessant braying of political slogans. Many people have become allergic to all three.
- The god-syndrome in which all-powerful characters miraculously solve impossible problems is a false friend. Taking yourself for god is a source of problems, not a solution. Trying to inspire readers by magicking up a trump card each time things get difficult is no model behaviour.
- Magic? Why not? Some tacit link to the possible is preferable, like the hands-on healing in my Boy & Girl Saga. Magic or the supernatural are a natural part of my stories, but generally not as a crutch when the going gets tough. In fact, being able to work ‘magic’ can just as readily be a challenge. Solutions to major problems stem from the initiative of the characters, not some external miracle.
- The challenges that confront the characters ultimately lead to growth and development. Beyond survival and the pure joy of being alive, that’s what the future is about: learning, growing, developing.
- The main characters, young people in my case, are necessarily the architects and the actors of their success not others who do/decide everything for them. The story is a path to empowerment.
- The eruption of the unexpected is a key ingredient in my stories. It opens chinks in reality through which alternative perspectives can be glimpsed. Not arbitrary events or behaviour, but rather unfamiliar circumstances or unexpected outcomes or temporary setbacks that spark changes of perspective, sudden insights or unanticipated breakthroughs.
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