Monday, March 1, 2010

This is the Most Important Thing

Undercover Boss is a new television show on CBS. If you haven’t seen it, it follows CEOs of major companies behind the scenes working at the front lines of their companies. In the episodes I have seen, the CEOs all go into the experience hoping to see how well their employees are implementing corporate policy and to learn what they can do to improve their companies. But in each case, what they soon discover is that the most important thing isn’t how well the employees are implementing corporate policy. Instead, they discover that the policy decisions they make have an impact on real people.

When we write a story, we may have some idea that we want to get across. Global warming is coming, (or not). Conservatives are idiots (or maybe it’s liberals). In the end, While our point may be important, it isn’t as important as the people involved. If there’s an issue, it translates into a personal impact for one or more of our characters. If we can’t see how our issue impacts our characters, we are no better off than an CEO with nothing but a corporate policy statement. When readers can see how the characters are impacted, they will understand the issue and make a decision based on that rather than us needing to get them to take our word for it.