Thursday, November 5, 2015
Writer Choices: May the World be Yours
World building is the first goal of science fiction writers; a goal that isn’t completed until it’s the weirdest ever. A thing or creature is greater than physical features. It interacts. It communicates.
All writers swear an allegiance, either knowingly or subconsciously, to the world of communication. How do we do it? The moronic answer: we put words on paper. Dah!
C’mon, it’s not that easy. Right you are. Let’s try to list the ways our words on paper impact the reader?
1. Characters can think, speak, act and/or interact.
2. Things exist and have a history, known or unknown.
3. The environment (i.e., scenery) impacts by whatever it does.
4. What’s left out.
Number 1 is a no-brainer in concept and difficult in execution. Does the head have one eye or two? If not a human, maybe no head at all. What characters think tells us about them. A sports fanatic, one scared of water, or one who procrastinates each travel a different path or no path at all. Is there a difference between a mile runner who goes straight versus one who enjoys an oval surrounded by cheering fans?
There can be differences in all these. That’s the payoff to a writer. You agonize and then you get to choose. Choices, that’s what communication is no matter how done.
Number 2 can be as vast as number 1. The simple rock may not attract attention until a pickax exposes a vein. “Gold!” is the cry. “Stupid rock.” “Fool’s Gold.” Its toss onto a pile eight-feet high instantly tells a story. Things can be chosen for intended results. An old letter to bring the writer’s history to the forefront. Bright or faded, the marks can be decipherable or not. Modern day electronic bytes zooming through space unseen can be a challenge or not. One day society might have a machine that displays the unseen words. In your writing you can have it today.
Number 3 is the environment. Number 2 mentioned space. There is a connection. Compartmentalizing numbers one, two and three is possible, but so is combination. Writers separate the ingredients to create a pie presented to the reader. It’s a metaphor. Writer’s like, no love, them. With our pie metaphor there is the flour and water that makes the crust. A fruit, apples my favorite, mixed with cinnamon and sugar, as a filling. Then, either a full crust to hide the filling or strips to expose and tantalize the prospective eater. While the aroma may be the same, size may not be. Would it sit on a window’s sill or enter a contest? As with the pie, trees, lakes, buildings, sewers, drain spouts, insects, mammals provide an infinite number of choices that can be shaded with singular or combined variation.
Number 4 can be as important as any of the above. What is left out is also a choice. If a writer never mentions a character’s feet, maybe they don’t exist. If they exist, are there three or five toes? Maybe they’re fashioned out of clay? Oh, is that literal or figurative? Again, what is left out leaves an impression. It’s a good impression if the dull stuff isn’t left to be read. There are necessary physical acts for a character seated in a room to answer the door. Readers can figure that out if its every day normal suburbia. But? The writer says the character flew to the door. Is it literal?
All this certainly left out an encyclopedia. If it made you think, that’s enough. Now, make those choices, change them, circle back, try a choice outside your comfort zone. To revert to the pie metaphor, the world awaits your choices and will enjoy the taste, even if they don’t recognize or understand how you made it.