I’ve broken my own rule about letting a new manuscript marinate for a couple of months. My recently completed android novel was calling out to me from the darkness of its disk drive. It lacks a traditional story structure and I thought it shouldn’t be allowed to “set up” like that.
I’m now going through it chapter by chapter, writing a 65-word synopsis of each, listing the scenes (usually only one, but sometimes three). After ten chapters, my feeling is that the story is not half bad as it is.
My main characters are androids. By definition, they do not yearn for any MacGuffin, nor do they churn within from internal conflict. They calmly investigate the human condition and try to stay hidden. Sure, there are bad guys pursuing them, so their main motivation is to avoid being caught and to escape when they are.
Without that burning desire to drive the action, and without the Achilles’ heel to trip things up, there can be no final catharsis. Also, there’s two of them working in collaboration, not one central MC. Not normal.
Do I care about this lack of traditional structure? I worry about it. Readers expect an Aristotelian story, or, lacking that, redeeming lyricism or imagery. Mine is a story of ideas and observations. That’s satisfying enough for me, but probably not for most people.
Maybe I should re-write for MC Jennifer, creator of the androids and a human with normal human emotions and motivation. With a 3P-limited narrator I could still get inside the heads of the androids, but it would be her journey. Probably that’s more like what people expect.
Teachers always say to write the story you want to tell, not what you think people want to hear. But that may not be good advice. When I get to the end of the synthetic outline, I’ll see what building materials I have to work with and what would have to be added to tell Jennifer’s story. If she had one. Which she doesn’t. But could.