Friday, July 22, 2011

How to Write: "The Rules" - On Context and Myth in Storytelling

Regarding "restraining your research" (the topic of my last update) I began a short dialogue with the author of a blog about exposition. It went a little something like this:

Daniel, thanks... I recently gave a seminar about the subject of revealing too much of your valued research via exposition. Many professional authors still to this. I could name a few, particularly in the SF field (it's hard not to go on and on about your cool discovery of (theoretical) particle inter-dimensional plasma dark-matter propulsion that you've researched for months)... 
I'll share here what I shared in my seminar: 
One way to keep yourself from over-sharing all those "clever bits" (instead of keeping them to yourself) is to purposefully file them away in a backstory scrapbook or dossier or in directories devoted to spin-offs, short stories or even novels set in that same universe, world, time period. 
Think of J.K. Rowling's spin off book on Quiddich, the game Harry was so good at. Or the spin off books featuring minor character Boba Fett in Star Wars (another reason to keep dossiers on your characters, even minor ones--you never know when one of them might become a star). 
I've done this with several of my books. For instance, I generated several award-winning short stories from my two books "Darwin's Paradox" and "Angel of Chaos". My next book "Outer Diverse" (due this October) is set in the same universe as a previous book I'd written several years ago. 
Cheers, 
Nina
The dossier idea is fascinating, but not my cup of tea. However, I very much agree with the notion of having a vibrant world in which to tell more than one story. One of the things I like about being a writer of Epic Science Fantasy (I think that's the tag I've decided upon, yes) is that it is appropriate to tell the tale of a historical individual or to have songs, poems and other pieces of culture to weave into the story. It's even better when readers nod along with you and say things like, "I can see why they would use that benediction; it makes perfect sense."

Assuming I garner the success to semi-support myself with this craft, I fully intend to expand beyond the borders of the story I'm writing at the moment.

As I see it, rarely in real life do people stop what they are doing to explain the nature of what they are doing. Having created an entirely fictional world with its own rules, I had to restrain myself from outright deviating from the plot in order to explain The Rules, because to the characters who live with the rules, there is no need for pedantry. It's implausible. It wouldn't happen as much as I wouldn't explain all the background information for my own life. (If you must know, the little scar on my forehead is a chicken-pock scar from when I was eight. My parents warned me not to scratch.)
With things that are less mundane (in fiction as well as reality) there is more opportunity and necessity for explanation. Regarding your reference to Quiddich (and I never read the HP books) I have no doubt that Harry was unaware of the rules. When Harry learned the rules, it was the best possible opportunity for the reader to learn them, too. That's context, and I think it's key to disseminating information in a story--for it is the necessary relay of information at the most appropriate time. My "info dumps" slowly disappeared as I adopted this philosophy.

Agree? Disagree? Something nice to say? Leave it below.



D

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for visiting my blog! I do appreciate the time you have taken out of your day to pop in.