“…fiction is all about action, about pursuing a goal, doing something.” – No one ever told me this, & I didn’t notice it in my reading of fiction over the years, and I’m not sure I believe it’s true. It certainly isn’t true of most of my fiction. Forget What You Can’t Remember is largely the opposite of this, and in some ways even more the opposite of the source of this pull-quote. (It’s from #3, on dialog, if you actually go look.) My most popular podiobooks, the currently-running Untrue Tales… follow a protagonist who is simply being led from one thing to another by external forces, with no real goals of his own, and often spends pages and pages with the characters not really doing anything. Daydreaming, discussing the size and shape of Hell, thinking about whether to read each other’s minds or just have sex, even just staring at an impossible fireplace for 5+ pages.
The book I’m working on next, Cheating, Death, is also contrary in some ways to this idea that I had no idea until recently so many writers considered sacred: That your main characters need to be pursuing a goal at all times. I’m intentionally writing a book where the central character can’t decide what he wants, changes his mind frequently and usually in response to outside stimulus (rather than any internal decision or conviction), and where the closest thing to a firm goal that he ever has (don’t get eaten by zombies) exists in a contrarian sort of thought-space (since the threat of the zombies exists basically as a symbolic external representation of his indecision). His goal of ‘avoiding zombies’ is really a twisted admission of his deeper avoidance of setting or pursuing goals. Oh, there’ll be action, he’ll be doing things; I’m also writing this book in direct contradiction to the most common responses to the zombie content in Forget What You Can’t Remember: Not enough zombies, not enough action, not a ‘zombie book’ et cetera. So Cheating, Death will be a zombie book, with lots of zombies, plenty of action, and cliched zombie things like having to turn on your own zombie-fied family members & narrow escapes not directly related to the skill/ability/resourcefulness of the characters. I’ve been reading thousands upon thousands of pages of the most popular and successful modern zombie fiction I could get my hands on as research.
(Mostly what I’ve learned is that I don’t like ‘zombie books’ and I don’t like thrillers, whether they have zombies or not. In addition, my favorite of all the zombie stories I’ve read have been ones that didn’t actually have any zombies in them.)
Was I supposed to have or come to a point, here? Hmm.. just the one from the first sentence; I don’t think that the sole purview of fiction is action. I prefer for the fiction I write to be more contemplative and introspective. I’ve even recently thought of a name for the “genre” of fiction I write: Introspeculative Fiction. Two steps away from traditional Science Fiction or Fantasy, concerned with looking in rather than acting out, but always speculating on the future & the fantastic.