Reading as a Writer – Part II

I finished Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers about two weeks but haven’t had a chance to follow-up. It was an interesting read to say the least. Starship Troopers is considered a science fiction classic. Written in 1959, the book was considered controversial because of its military as well as social themes. I’ll stop there; this post is about the writing.

In part I, I mentioned how Heinlein created a world and I entered it. Information came sparingly but enough to keep me reading. There was no info dump that I can recall. What I noticed about this book is how Heinlein molds the main character (also the narrator) from a naive boy entering the military to a confident battle worn man. The development of this character is basically the book with a science fiction back drop.

I find this critical and now start understand what a character driven novel really means. I guess I really never understood what character driven meant, but really paying attention to what Heinlein’s trying to accomplish I get it. The whole aspect of a war with a bug alien race is secondary to a young man’s development.

So if the book was written the other way around where the war against the bugs was primary and the character secondary – would it be as interesting? Maybe. The challenge would be to constantly have action and move the story forward. I wouldn’t care about the characters as much or even find them boring. It’s clear that complex characters make a book interesting; they’re short comings, dreams, fears, desires, wants, etc.

While I’m mentioning character driven stories, I caught The Walking Dead this Sunday and it did not disappoint! Zombies were the back drop but the characters pull you in instantly. I believe this the only way something like The Walking Dead gets produced.  Think about it, if it was all zombies all the time, ratings wouldn’t be great. Have the characters drive the story and draw you in – it’s a success! The show lived up to the hype and I look forward to watching it develop.


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