“If you don’t care about a character, you can’t possibly write an interesting story about him,” says Orson Scott Card. “If you don’t believe in a character, there’s no chance that you can make your readers believe in him either.”

Indiana Jones Lego Man

Photo by Kenny Louie

I need this quote from time to time. I’m an idea person, and I love creating stories that prove ideas. Sartre, Camus, Dostoevsky, these are the writers I most admire.

The problem is that sometimes when you’re trying to write a story about an idea, it stops being a story. It becomes a geometric proof or a philosophical dissertation or a boring lecture.

Orson reminds me that stories are about people, not ideas. They might involve ideas, but people come first. And since stories are about people, you have to care about them or the story won’t work.

I would like to be able to give you seven tips on how to write a story about ideas, but I’m still trying to figure out how to do that myself. I will just say, if you want to write fiction about ideas, first, learn to love your characters.

PRACTICE

“Prove” one of the following ideas by telling a story about a character you love.

  • God is dead
  • God is love
  • God exists

Make sure to tell a story about a person, not about God. And I know it’s almost Christmas, but please no cheesy re-enactments in Bethlehem, Jerusalem or any other near-east city.

To be as “cheese-less” as possible, choose to “prove” a point you don’t necessarily agree with. For example, if you’re an atheist, you could write about a man who experiences love and associates that love with God. If you’re a Christian, you could write about a depressed woman who feels like God abandoned her.

Just make sure your story is about the character and not their religion.

Practice for fifteen minutes. Post your practice in the comments.

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).