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Obey the Rules!….

May 27, 2012

Sounds ominous…”obey the rules”….but it’s not as bad as it sounds, nor is it as easy.

One thing we, as writers, sometimes forget is we have a lot of power when it comes to the worlds we create. We can explore distance galaxies, have cars talk, or even make people to fall in love. It’s a lot of power and with great power comes great responsibility (stole that one from Spiderman….)

It’s easy. We make the rules, we set the guidelines, and we can even break the rules. It’s all fair game when we are writing. We can manipulate known physics and defy gravity. We can do anything.

The problem is, our readers can’t.

The world we establish has to have rules. Our real world has rules. In our daily lives we are bound by gravity, are unable to shift the course of how the sun moves across the sky, and even have to deal with that goober of a boss. The real world has rules and we are all accustomed to playing by them.

We read to get away from those rules but the way our mind works makes us want to escape into a world that is believable and is as real as we want it to be within our mind’s eye. We, as writers, have a responsibility to our readers to establish the rules of the world we create and then hold to them. If not, the world shatters and the goal of escaping is lost.

Christopher Reeve stared in a great movie in 1980 called Somewhere in Time. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should. I won’t give away the plot, but the gist is breaking the rules is a very bad thing.

The rules we establish don’t just apply to the physical elements of our world. They apply to the characters as well. We can’t say it’s impossible to do “X” in the beginning and then the solution to the conflict is for the hero or heroine to do “X” at the end. Or, we can’t have a character flaw that is overcome with no apparent reason.

This is not to say that things should not change or evolve within the story. If part of the character’s struggle requires them to address “X”, then that becomes an element of the world and of the rules we create to evolve the story and the character arc.

Remember, we make the rules. Everything is fair game. We just have to remember to stick to the rules and not break them once we have established them.

If we don’t, we lose our reader. More importantly, we lose their trust in us to be able to take them away to a distant place, a place they want to go to get a way from it all.

Remember….”We are the music makers…..We are the dreamers of the dream….”
Willy Wonka

From → Writing

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