As any aspiring writer might tell you, there are a lot of things to keep in mind when constructing a story. Even I, until diving into collections of vintage pulp stories, believed some of those basic tips were necessary. Like foreshadowing twists and tricks. The Chekhov’s Gun comes to mind. Where everything in a story must be used or be made significant by the end. I used to think proper characterization of the main characters was essential. And this may be true, but I think the pulp genre has a certain leeway when it comes to conventional story writing – and it’s awesome.
I found myself thoroughly entertained by several stories only to discover – to my shock – that these were constructed with forbidden elements. Deus Ex Machina, perfect heroes, contrived stories, two-dimensional villains and more. But that’s the trick.
The central idea of pulp fiction is not to produce something thought-provoking or some groundbreaking social commentary. The foundation of any pulp story is to entertain. The pulp genre is meant for the masses. It’s meant to shamelessly appeal to our baser needs. Sex, violence, adventure, mystery, good triumphing over evil, an exploration into the unknown. And sometimes, as much as we hate to admit it, we want to see a perfect character. We want to read about the hero who always wins – who’s always ten steps ahead. We want to see good defeat evil – even through Deus Ex Machina. We want a familiar routine.
In the end, the most important realization is that there aren’t actually any rules to writing – only guidelines. You hear culture critiques poke fun at movies that use things I described above. Movies and shows and books all get punished for having repeated plots and heroes with very few flaws. The unchanging hero – the kind that always wins. They say any form of fiction that has these elements must be bad or poorly written. I might agree that a work with these elements could be poorly written. But bad?
In the grand scheme of things the only work of fiction that has failed – is a work that has failed to entertain.