Just Go With It   Leave a comment

The process of writing science fiction and fantasy seems to fascinate many people, including a few writers. They wonder where ideas come from and how one makes up names for things that don’t exist. They are simply baffled and amazed by the way those of us who practice the art of imagination can create entire histories and civilizations to serve the stories we tell. I feel much the same about sculpture, by the way. How anyone can look at a slab of rock and know where the arms and legs and eyes are hiding is a mystery to me.

Because we can do it at all, many people assume that we are in complete control of the process. Regrettably, that isn’t so, for my part at least. I’ve spent time in the company of enough writers over the years to get the sense that my experience is anything but unique. Oh, you usually have a pretty good idea of how to start it all out, and most of us have at least a sense for where we mean to end up. Somehow it doesn’t ever turn into a straightforward progression from Point A to Point B. As plot ideas begin to gel, and you develop the story and people living in it, an evolutionary process takes off and it’s not uncommon for it to take on something like a life of its own. A stray thought occurs, perhaps a thing a character might say or do, and the story line veers from the predicted path. You can back up and rewrite it all, of course, and try to stay on track, but all too often that idea (especially if it involves a character in the tale) simply will not go gently into that good night. “Nuthin’ doin’, bucko,” you seem to hear as you consider what to do about it. “Listen up. We are the story. We know what we’re talking about!” A smart writer takes heed, and generally concedes. The story begins to unfold in a different way, sometimes only a little bit altered, and sometimes transformed into something the writer didn’t really see coming. Masterpieces of genre fiction are created this way. So are nervous breakdowns.

I made a comment a while back on Facebook about having such an experience with my current work-in-progress. A friend responded with the reminder that I could play God and make the characters do whatever I wanted them to do. I’m sure he meant well by it. But the truth is that while the writer is sort of like a god in that universe he or she decides to bring into the light, the status is much more like a god of Greek mythology than the absolute ruler of the universe.  We are gods with a small “g” who can’t really expect complete obedience from troublesome mortals. If you’re a lower-case god or goddess and insist on creating Heroes, you’re just asking for trouble. There’s no sense in complaining about it.

Posted July 21, 2012 by underdesertstars in Books and Writing

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