I’ve come across something in my writing that’s helping me a lot, and I’d like to share it with you. Now, as with most writing advice, this bit won’t appeal to everyone. Some are gonna think it’s dumb or too hard or not hard enough or whatever. That’s ok. Ready? Here we go.
At the base of everyone’s brain exist the four F’s: Fighting, Feasting, Fleeing, and sweet, sweet lovin‘. These are down at the root, in the oldest part of our brain, the part we share with animals and worms and fish and stuff. Put at least one of the four F’s in any story you want to tell, and you got your audience by the amygdala. People love reading that stuff. They can’t stop themselves. Your story may still very well be absolute garbage, but people will keep reading it cuz it’s got those things our lizard brains crave!
Now, don’t jam the Four F’s in there. They have to flow natural. Otherwise, it just stops being good or so-bad-it’s-good and just winds up bad.
Allow me to illustrate.
The video above is a trailer for the B-movie “Sharknado. This is not a good movie. The characters are boilerplate. The writing is cliched as heck. The story is predictable. This movie is bad.
But it is entertaining. Why? Because it has all the four F’s.
The people FLEE the rising waters.
The people FIGHT the sharks.
A good portion of the film involves FEAST-ing on beer. (This one is a cop-out. I don’t care.)
And this guy wants to MAKE SWEET, SWEET LOVE to Tara Reid.
And there you have it. Put the four F’s in your story. Sprinkle them in liberally, don’t overweight any one of the F’s, or your reader will get a tummy-ache. And remember, this trick will not fix any problems you may have crafting appealing characters, compelling story lines, or immersive settings. But it will guarantee your story will not be boring.
The worst you’ll do is write Sharknado.
And the world will always need Sharknado.
EXPERT-LEVEL: There is a 5th F. It’s called FIGURING STUFF OUT. It is incredibly hard to do this well. It’s so hard to do this well, that if you have any doubts about being able to do it, just don’t.
Figuring stuff out is what made Watchmen one of the greatest books of all time.
Figuring stuff out is what drew millions of people to Lost in the mid-2000s.
Figuring stuff out (a good mystery) is something only the greatest of writers are able to accomplish well. You can lead readers/viewers on for a long time, but the payoff has to matter (as Lost fans know all too well).
Figuring stuff out is not a part of our lizard brain. Lizards don’t really care why or how stuff works. That’s an ape thing, a human thing. Figuring stuff out is how we got fire, the wheel, religion, philosophy, Rubik’s cubes, and Lady Gaga.
So, yeah. There’s fighting, fleeing, feasting, making sweet, sweet love, and figuring stuff out.
Oh, and funny…ness. Funniness. Humor.