20 April 2010

On Relationships . . .

No, I'm not having a Hallmark moment. Instead, I'm thinking about science fiction or fantasy stories I've loved not just because of the cool world, or the science, or the voice, or the conflict, or the unique plot. Instead, it is the relationship between two (occasionally more than two) characters in the story. These don't have to be romantic relationships. They can be old friendships, family relationships, even people who dispise each other but nonetheless must interact. I'm curious about why they interact the way they do. Or perhaps I wonder what will happen with these characters when push comes to shove.

In reading Electric Spec submissions, I often find that it is the human element that is missing. The story comes off shallow or formulaic despite having many strong points. Even though we are reading about strange new worlds, action without much interaction is often not enough to make the story truly interesting. Introducing a relationship can transform a dull story into an interesting one.


lesleylsmith said...

Good point, Dave! Spec fic without character development reads as very old-fashioned. And, of course, a great way to show character development is to show relationships.

writtenwyrdd said...

Thanks for sharing this. It's very helpful to get an editor's perspective on common problems with stories received.

Sam Kepfield said...

ABSOLUTELY TRUE!! I read quite a bit of science fiction, have been since the late '70s. It seems to me that something has changed. When I pick up the latest Asimov's or Analog, what I read are stories that try too hard to be "literary," with very shallow characters. Same with the new paperback releases -- a lot of far-flung space opera, but little of the human element.

The Good Old Stuff, like Heinlein, Asimov, Clark, Sturgeon, Bova, Silverberg, etc., had believable characters and solid relationships. You actually cared about them, wanted to see the boy get the girl, etc. It made the story move along.

Any fiction, no matter what genre, is ultimately about people. If you have interesting characters, and good relationships, then you have a story. If not, it's just words, and will be a chore to read.

Sam Kepfield