So this Orson Scott Card book is really working for me.
So one of the things I’ve had pounded into my head throughout my writing apprenticeship (and that I have in turn pounded into other people’s heads) is that stories are about character growth and conflict. Which can be true…
Except when it’s not
One of the things that Card explains better that I’ve seen before is the different types of stories. Sure there are character driven stories, but also event stories, idea stories, and milieu stories. And after years of focusing on one kind of story, it was helpful to be reminded of this. In fact, one of the things I’ve argued with some of my writing instructors (with varying degrees of success) is that the need for direct conflict in every scene pertains only to a certain type of story, that not all stories need that specific sort of tension to create a narrative drive.
Which I think goes a long way to explaining why some stories leave some readers cold while others rave about them, they’re not our type of stories.
In the same vein, just because stories with character growth speak to me more vividly than other stories doesn’t mean it’s the only type of story out there. (Although, Card does make the point that a greater level of characterization is currently the fashion now, just as “Dear Reader” was the fashion in the late 19th century, and that is true.)
This was yet another thing I needed to hear right now, especially as I ruminate on additional Theo books.
The truth is that Theodosia doesn’t have giant growth arcs in each book, but quieter, smaller episodes of personal growth. Card put it really well; he said, in some stories characters are revealed, rather than grow. Another aha! moment. Theo isn’t hugely unsatisfied with her life or needing to move out of the emotional place she was in, she just needs to understand it better and her role in it. With each adventure she faces she learns more about herself, but she doesn’t undergo some monumental change. I do challenge each book to go deeper than the one before or to shade different elements of her development; in Book II for example, she had to stand fast to who she was in spite of the formidable influence of her grandmother and a bevy of governesses. And in Book III, we see her “tribe” of fellow odd ducks beginning to coalesce around her.
Part of the reason for this less steep growth is that she started out strong to begin with. Nathaniel Fludd on the other hand, does have quite a lot of growing to do. His emotional scars are greater, partly because his life experience has been more extreme, and partly because he had a more tender nature to begin with. So the Beastolgoist books are very much about him growing into a different, healthier, more emotionally secure and balanced individual.
It occurs to me that I really need to have Tools, not rules, tattooed on my forehead!