Let The Trolls Speak: Principles Of 21st Century Storytelling

| August 27, 2016


“No generation at any time has ever lived in a world so rich and diverse in storytelling. It changed you.”

Every previous generation in human history, it’s been more difficult to move around and be exposed to the different types and conventions, certainly the volume of stories that you keep at your fingertips. You wade through swamps of information, so if you’re being told a story, you’re using those tropes and categories and stereotypes to make sense of it quickly. If you guess where the story’s going, you’re disappointed. You’re hard to trick; and you’ve seen everything. That throws down quite a challenge to your storytellers.

Equally true, no person has ever lived in a time with more understanding of science and technology than you are right now as you read this. Even if you hate science, you still know more about lightning and eclipses and tsunamis and a wide universe of other things that were blank slates for hundreds of thousands of years before you.

Wow. A modern-day writer might just ask – now what?

This short work attempts to answer that question by looking at the problem from two perspectives:

Five rules are proposed for each, distilled from examples and from literally thousands of reviews of contemporary movies, television shows and literature. Of interest to writers of thrillers, science fiction, horror, speculative fiction, and fantasy, as well as those intrigued by the writing process and curious about looking under the hood to see how it runs – spend an hour here, engage with the author, and start the conversation about how we can all demand more from our fiction than recycled and tired ideas.

Grailrunner Publishing

Try this sometime. It’s fascinating. Go on Gutenberg.org and pull down a copy of one of the old sci-fi pulps from the 1930’s like, ‘Astounding Stories Of Super-Science’ or find a pdf of, ‘Planet Stories’ or whatever. Read the letters columns. Those guys were teenagers, thrilling over pulp stories that blew their minds about space travel and breakthrough technology. Then those guys grew up and put us on the moon and invented television and communications satellites.

Then try this. Go find some interviews with people that worked at DARPA on the original internet, or the guys who designed the iPhone, or the ones now working on CRISPR and other biotechnology that will be curing cancer and AIDS and all sorts of plagues within a generation or two. See how often they mention being inspired by, ‘Star Trek’, or remembering seeing, ‘Star Wars’ the first time, or reading something from Arthur Clarke.

Science and speculative fiction helped build our best thinkers. And it’s still trying to do that; but the system is clogging and is often rigged for tedious, dumbed-down and mechanical work that is most likely to sell but which often doesn’t really move the needle like it should. We believe independent publishing is going to have to pick up the flag on this and run into the battle. Yet, the quality of indie works is often poor, with bad editing and silly homemade covers and endless storms of social media shouting. Stop that too. That won’t inspire our thinkers any more than a fifteenth entry in a space-vampire series would.

Nothing is more urgent for indie publishing right now than to get our act together on the quality of our work – meaning the editing, the covers, narrative structure, the whole package.

If THE HOLY GRAIL = an undiscovered treasure


A GUNRUNNER = a smuggler


a GRAILRUNNER is someone digging up or helping shape paradigm-shattering and skull-melting works, old or new, indie or mass published, that demand to be brought into the light so they can change the world.

Less whining. More inspiring.


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