Sunday, January 31, 2016

What Is Real?

I was recently interviewed on a friend's blog (link is at the bottom), and one of the questions asked led to this awesome. So what is real? I know what you are thinking. Oh sh... he finally lost it! *grabs popcorn* This should be good! It's not that serious, or maybe it is. Let me consult the voices in my head. This week I want to ask the question "What is real?" I'm not questioning reality in a sick kind of torture scenario *puts waterboarding tools away*.

This week I want to discuss how to keep your writing grounded. There is a certain suspension of reality that takes place when you enter a fictional world as a writer or a reader. The difference is a writer can control where that reality begins and ends and the reader is along for the ride, even for the huge drops and loops of the roller coaster. The writer must make sure the coaster doesn't fly off its tracks unless it has wings, like a pega-coaster, and maybe give it a horn too. A UNI-PEGA-COASTER would totally not pull the reader out of that suspension.

The Rules

The writer makes the rules, but it is their job to ensure the rules make sense. This doesn't mean a 5 page block of exposition is needed to explain every little thing. The rules should be explained sparingly as the story moves, so it doesn't muck up the action. At the same time readers don't want to be left wondering what the crap is the Kool-Aid Guy doing busting through every wall including the 4th one? "Oh YEA!" Readers aren't going to know that the author spent 2 weeks coming up with the idea of a cartoon world similar to the Roger Rabbit movie, but in another dimension. They don't know that the hero created a device to bridge the gap between dimensions which makes it possible for the Kool-Aid Guy to be there. This might be a deal breaker for readers if the writer is unable to adequately explain it away.

This does not mean a writer can't have some crazy mechanized cat that coughs up tin foil balls. The writer need only decide what the rules are in the world they create. Are the mechanized cats alive? machines? alien technology? magically animated constructs? Once it is decided, the author MUST stick with the rules. Making it up as you go makes it harder for readers to accept. It is OK to make an exception to the rule, but make it clear. It is not OK to break every known rule in your world whenever it becomes inconvenient and then not explain why. This drives people crazy! I know. Been there. It's about a 5 minute drive depending on traffic.


The writer has created their realm. When the characters are dropped into the world they all have their own abilities and motivations. In order to stay grounded within the world I created there are 2 questions I find myself asking over and over again. The first, "Is this possible?" Using the laws that bind the world, can it physically be done? Can the plucky heroine with a gunshot wound in her leg jump the 10 foot gap when she normally can't jump 4 feet? No she can't, but maybe she can with rocket boots... I find it important to keep things grounded in the world you create. That means inventing new things and abilities so the characters can do extraordinary things. It's not so characters can do extraordinary things to patch a plot hole.

The second question I ask is "What motivates the characters involved?" If I can understand what my characters want then I can anticipate how they will react to upcoming situations. This goes double for the villain. They don't sit there and go MWAHAHAHA all day. No, they lay plans toward a goal just like everyone else. Their goals tend to be evil from a general perspective, but in real life the evil characters don't see themselves as evil most of the time. I try to emulate that by putting myself in their shoes. I might not react the same way, but I can at least understand.


Godzilla will eat your face. It's inevitable. There is one more question that I ask myself with regularity. "Does it matter?" Staying grounded within the world the writer created can make it feel more realistic, but is that always a good thing? Does the audience need to know the details of how a device allows the hero to breathe under water? Later when the hero uses the same device to play checkers, does it matter that it is capable of multiple tasks? These questions like everything else can be a useful tool to pull out of the author box when needed.

The Interview The Interview with ME! This interview helped to inspire today's blog post. You should go click on the link before the deathbots come. They only kill people who don't click the link, so DO IT already. I'm only trying to save your life.

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