Since I’m not featuring any authors this month, I’m just posting things I enjoy writing about. If I seem scattered, you’re right. I’m still re-organizing my computer after it murdered so many of my files, and I’m busy with two book launches. More about that next time, but right now, let’s talk focus.
So let’s say you want the world or milieu to be paramount. Your characters will enter this world you’ve created, they’ll look around, react and interact with it, and they’ll let you find out what this place is about while, at the same time, they’re finding out about it.
Think of Alice. Now, there is one milieu-dominated story. Alice moves through an underground realm of odd tea parties and even odder court trials, then she returns home, having finally understood the futility of trying to make meaning out of any of her encounters. Critics of the story say that, unlike a good milieu story, Alice hasn’t been transformed by her experience, and this is often noted as the failure of the novel. If she had returned to her “real” world different than when she entered it, the story would have been a stronger one. Still Carroll’s milieu tale is popular and continues to entertain readers.
But the characters, you say. They must be the focus, especially the protagonist. And in a character-focused story, they are the focus. The character(s) start in one place and end in another. With my story Double Negative, my guy, Hutch McQueen, is stuck in an abusive home, and his one thought is escape. The problem is he can’t because he makes one bad choice after another that prevents his escape. It’s not until he starts making smart choices (and that take some serious work) that he finds the way out of the mess he’s in. And viola! He’s a new kind of kid–still flawed, but with an idea of how to make his way through the world without landing in trouble.
When the author focuses on an event that throws the established world order into chaos, then you’ve got a story that requires either knitting up the old order or creating a new one. Shakespeare did the event story a lot. Macbeth to name one.