Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturation of Story

I had not fully appreciated the voracious appetite of humanity for story (tales, fiction and nonfiction) until I read the opening of Story by Robert McKee:

Imagine, in one global day, the pages of prose turned, plays performed, films screened, the unending stream of television comedy and drama, twenty-four-hour print and broadcast news, bedtime tales told to children, barroom bragging, back-fence Internet gossip, humankind's insatiable appetite for stories.

When I think "story," I think novels, but that just one small medium for story. Beyond everything McKee mentioned, think of all the magazine articles--from The New Yorker to Entertainment Weekly to Esquire to The Knitting Universe--available monthly or weekly, all the video games, all the comic strips in newspapers, all the blogs posted daily, all the online articles, all the forwarded emails of funny or inspirational stories--even the commercials that now tell full stories that grown and develop in thirty-second slots over the course of a year while still selling a single product.

With so much story so readily at our fingertips, we've become saturated by it, demand more from it, and in general, have simply become more cynical to it. As a writer who wants to sell novels, it's mind boggling the odds of one novel rising above all the other novels in a particular genre to receive special notice, let alone rising above all the other fiction novels to receive best-seller status. On top of that, authors not only need to produce top-notch stories, but they need to do so for an audience that is already steeped in story-overload.

These thoughts have been bouncing around in my head for a while (since my "The Ultimate Novel-Marketing Strategy" post earlier this month). I've always known that I wanted to write the best novel I could. It's realizations like this that confirm unless Conventional Demon is the best story I can create, it's not going to be financially competitive in this market. It's motivation and it's daunting.

I had one of my "remember when" moments the other day--moments that I feel I'm hardly old enough to have. I remember when there were only about twelve TV stations, and I remember when they didn't air shows twenty-four hours a day. There was no Internet. There wasn't a magazine for every subject under the sun. There weren't even VCRs when I was born. The sheer number of stories consumed by the public was exponentially fewer just twenty-odd years ago.

I think this You Tube video (which I originally saw on The Knight Agency blog) sums up my overwhelmed feelings rather well:

1 comment:

Cody said...

Cool video...
It is amazing how fast we develop electronically. I also remember when the TV would go off-air... The bars and a flag with the National Anthem playing... Then, poof... nothing...
Too bad all my college education that I learned this year is out of date already...
I hope you reach your goals and are a success with your stories! -cheers