In Which Storytellers Conquer the Universe

The Election Day Giveaway was, I believe, the most popular giveaway I’ve ever done, with close to 600 entries across my various blogs. Congratulations to Kari, who was selected at random as the winner. You should have gotten an email asking how you’d like the book signed and where to send it. And thank you everyone who voted last week.

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Seanan McGuire is doing a giveaway of her new collection Velveteen vs. the Junior Super Patriots (which just happens to include an introduction by me).

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Thinking back to the election, to everything leading up to it and the aftermath from all sides, what struck me was the importance of story. Facts are nice and all, but what really mattered was the story you told. The story of your candidate. The story of your opponent.

I see two problems right off the bat.

  1. These stories involve what we in the business call “unreliable narrators.”1
  2. It’s not just that the election is all about stories; it’s that they’re really bad stories.

I mean, come on. One of the basic lessons of writing is that your antagonist should be more than a cardboard caricature, a mustache-twirling villain who kicks homeless puppies for fun. Every villain is the hero of his/her own story, and I believe it’s important to understand the villain’s motivations, even if you don’t agree with them. It usually makes for a much better story. These campaigns need to go take Remedial Creative Writing at their local community college.

Think about how many candidates try to portray themselves as Washington outsiders. That’s storytelling! They want to be the orphaned hero: Luke Skywalker going up against the Empire! Frodo Baggins marching into Mordor!

And like any series, the storytellers have to keep raising the stakes to keep their audiences invested. “My opponent is a Death-Eater and a sparkling zombie werewolf who intends to enslave you all!”

Of course, the other part of storytelling is that your story is supposed to be believable. A member of the House Committee on Science proclaiming that woman have magic pregnancy-blocking vaginas to protect them in cases of rape? Oh, please. Suspension of disbelief is important, and you just catapulted me right out of the story with that one.

The silver lining to all of this is that it provides a lucrative opportunity for us writers. We’ve been so busy freaking out about the state of publishing that we’ve missed the obvious: We should be the ones pulling the strings of the elections, not those silly billionaires.

All those billions of dollars candidates spent campaigning? Send that money to those of us who know how to craft a decent story. We’ll spin you a tale of tragedy and triumph, with a likable hero, just the right amount of humor, a sympathetic backstory, and page-turning action that will actually make you want to care about politics.

You want people going to the polls? Look at how many people rushed out to buy the last Harry Potter novel, because they just had to know how the story would end.

Oh, yeah. That’s the power of story.

Candidates for 2016 can start sending their checks to my P.O. box.

  1. And that there was what we call an understatement.