Character story Vs Idea Story

Brutal takedown of the BSG finale. Money Quote

Note to BSG writing staff: ever heard of a character story? Well, if you haven’t, then I suggest you watch your own TV show for the last four seasons up until the very last hour of the finale—because that’s exactly what you guys had been writing up until God showed up to save the day. Ever heard of an idea story? Hint: watch the last hour of the finale that you wretched souls vomited upon us and that is precisely what an idea story is. These are two different story forms which make completely different demands upon character and plot—but don’t take my word for it. Orson Scott Card elucidated upon these story types in his how-to book, Characters & Viewpoint.

BSG’s main characters were fully realized, breathing human beings—steeped in dire conflict, both internally and externally, all of whom were suffused with the desire and a willingness to change not only their station in life, but themselves. Ergo: a character story. An idea story is cut from a different cloth. It is meant to emphasize an idea, not a character or characters—in fact, the idea itself is the main character, and everyone else its subject. The characters serve as the idea’s vehicle, its agent. They must act on its behalf. Sure, the characters are determined; sure, they are idiosyncratic, but they are also two-dimensional because the idea itself must be fully explored. Characters following God’s master plan is a perfect idea story. In fact, characters following any master plan is an idea story.

Remember Isaac Asimov? He wrote idea stories. He wrote great ones, like, say, the Foundation series. Psychohistory was the idea. Psychohistory was the main character.


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