The prompt for this post was a film I watched recently, Salmon fishing is the Yemen. I knew it had good crits and it’d been on my “to see” list for a long time. From the first few minutes to the end I enjoyed it. It was a gentle tale, with an element of humour and even a bit of romance. There was some violence, however basically it was a “nice” (and I know as authors the word “nice” is something to be avoided) story well told.
My wife complains from time to time that there is just too much violence in our media, our entertainment. Now, I’m a fan of Game of Thrones and Peaky Blinders. However, I can see where she’s coming from. These series are littered with countless scenes of often graphic violence. I guess sitting in our armchairs (or sofas) we accept this as “not real” and are able to dismiss it as such. Also, as an author of science fiction and some fantasy I get it. At the bottom of every story is conflict and what greater conflict is there than life and death? Hence perhaps why violent power struggles, battles and wars dominate the genres. It features in my own writing. Ancestral dreams (now working on books two and three) features alien creatures bent on domination. Bleak, the main character in Bleak – The story of a shapeshifter, is born out of war and is thrown into another violent conflict. Even Project Noah, a story of human enterprise and exploration is based around the ultimate demise of Earth’s civilisation.
I don’t write graphically violent scenes, partly because I see no need and partly because I believe I would struggle to make them convincing. Also, to be honest I wouldn’t feel comfortable in doing so. In much the same way, friends have suggested, half joking, that I should include more /some sex in my books. Again, if I’m honest I don’t think I could write anything remotely convincing as again I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so. I have also read some pretty bad sex scenes where it seems obvious to me the author feels the same but felt they had to write them anyway.
So back to the title of this post, what’s wrong with a “nice” story. And by that I don’t mean something bland that sends you to sleep. A nice story can still be gripping, like Salmon fishing in the Yemen. When I started to write Inspector Kirby and Harold Longcoat I didn’t set out to write a “nice” story. However, one of the best compliments I have received about that book is that there is a gentleness to it both in the story and the humour. I’m not saying bad things don’t happen, again there has to be conflict and after all, at its heart, it is a detective story. That same person said he found it no less gripping because of that. He loved the characters and the interplay between them. Best of all if I’d had the next instalments ready at the time he would have gone out and bought them (they are in revision as I write). He felt that there was a gap in the market for books with a “feel good” factor, that left you smiling.
So What’s wrong with a nice story? Absolutely nothing. I’ve enjoyed writing them and from the feed back I get people enjoy reading them. As a writer they’re in some ways more of a challenge. I can’t fall back on fighting, battles, violence and sex, to make the conflict work. I have to rely on the characters, the plot, imagination and a little humour to do that.
As always comments are welcome,