If you follow me on Twitter, or just check out my Twitter feeds on the site, you might have noticed my two tweets from yesterday that stated,
As great ideas increasingly come, they bring with them certain logic problems to be solved #amwriting
Great thing about solving logic problems though, it helps to deepen the story & present new & interesting directions #amwriting
I thought that I would expand on those two thoughts today. I don’t claim this is the reinvention of the wheel, nor that this advice is in any way new or ground breaking. It’s just that yesterday, this made perfect sense to me.
I spent most of the day driving in the car with my wife. I would either contemplate my current WIP, or openly discuss it with her. The more ideas I thought of, in terms of plot, overall mythology and character development, the more I realised there were problems. For instance, if the main character does action B, what happened to action A? If the character has to do action B for the plot to progress, I either have to insert action A, or explain why it makes perfect sense for action A to be skipped. Or, if a certain scene has to exist to accomplish something in the overall plot, how does that scene occur? Why do we end up there? Why? Why? And most importantly, Why?
As I forged ahead and answered a number of these nagging Whys, I realised just how much deeper my plot was becoming. I also came to the realisation that a stronger inner logic was forming that would give the world a better grounding. In sci-fi, fantasy or spec-fic particularly, but I suppose horror, romance and just about any genre that bends, adds to, or all together disregards, our common reality, it is important for there to be rules. If Superman can fly, why does he fly? Answer: he’s an alien. So did all of Superman’s people fly on his home planet? No. Why? Because they had a red sun and it is our yellow sun that grants him these powers. See what I mean? As you answer the question why, your mythology deepens. The further down you dig, eventually you will hit firm bedrock and you’ll know that your mythology makes sense.
Using my Superman example, we now have several plot points that we could include in a novel. Superman is an alien but our story is set on Earth. How does he get here? Superman never had abilities on his home world, so he would develop them here on Earth. That could be an extensive storyline. Oh wait, eight or more seasons of Smallville owe their existence to this kind of thinking.
Think about this. The Twilight series started with a dream about a girl laying in a field with a boy who sparkled in the sunlight. That’s it. By asking the questions of why does he sparkle, why are they together, and I’m sure numerous other why questions that came along, a whole series was born.
Harry Potter could have started as simply as an image in the author’s mind of a boy with a scar. Why does he have a scar? Why did someone try to kill him? You see how this is going?
By constantly asking why of our stories, situations, characters, etc, we create the bulk of our story and provide ground rules that will keep our reader engaged. When we make rules up on the fly or break established rules of our world without sufficient reasoning, we lose our audience. As an example I present you with a tale of two movies, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and The Matrix.
While considerably different movies, both featured incredible fight scenes where characters defied gravity. In the Matrix this was explained. The very foundation of the movie allowed for the flexing of typical laws of gravity. Audiences were thrilled and totally into the wire work on display. When I left the theatre, all I heard from people around me was that the movie was amazing and how the fight scenes were incredible. Crouching Tiger did not really explain the abilities of its characters to defy gravity, it took it for granted that the audience watching the film was acquainted with the cultural heritage it came from and would therefore accept what they saw without question. Unfortunately, seeing this in a Canadian theatre, there were clearly people there that thought this was a Chuck Norris film. Walking out, I could hear people muttering how it was stupid that they could fly etc. Granted, cultural ignorance of the genre contributes, but it illustrates my point. People will accept the breaking of accepted laws, as long as you give it a reason grounded in the world of the story. By doing this, The Matrix found a much larger accepting audience than it would have if it just took for granted everyone watching loved anime and its penchant for defying gravity.
If your character does magic, why? Does everyone in your world do magic? If not, be prepared to answer why.
Embrace these logic problems. They present incredible opportunities to develop plot and character. As I said, this is just my observation from my own journey through the creative process. Hope it helps.