Thursday, July 25, 2013
The Writing Life: The Perils of God Mode
I won’t pretend that we writers aren’t attracted to the craft, at least in part, because of raging control issues. In real life, most of us only have a limited number of things we have any real authority over, and most of those fall under the category of what to eat for dinner.
Writers, however, have absolute power within the boundaries of our particular world. If we want the sky to be green, all we have to do is say so. If someone annoys us, we can kill them off in as grisly a fashion as our heart desires. We can fill a thousand different conversations with the things we wish we’d said in life.
It takes a little time to realize that having all the power means more than just being able to do what you want. You have to do *everything,* from keeping track of each and every character to making sure that they have everything they need to give you the ending you want.
One character may keep a gun in a drawer next to his bedside, but if you don’t make certain he stops by his house to grab it before the final battle then he’s going to go in unarmed. You also need to make sure he has some skill at actually shooting the gun, and come up with a reason for him to have that training that makes sense. Making note of all these little things, and assuring that they’re both in place and believable, is the literary equivalent of a police officer filling out paperwork after a case.
The more complicated a story, the more paperwork you have to do. My Sleeping Beauty, Elena, is a sorceress, which means I’ve had to hear far more about magic than I ever wanted to. More specifically, I have to study magic, figuring out why a particular spell works and what will happen when I introduce this outside element to another spell. Because Elena would know, and has a tendency to explain such matters in a far more technical language than I use in describing anything, ever. Since she knows, I have to as well.
Most of the time, I adore dealing with even the finickiest of details. It’s like building an enormous, world-spanning dollhouse, and it takes someone who finds equal delight in making sure the walls are structurally sound and writing tiny little headlines on the fake newspaper on the coffee table. You have the power to send a bedset plummeting off the third story, and it can be fun to watch it smash on the rocks below. But you also have to be the one to sweep it up, and make sure that the upstairs bedroom gets a replacement bedset at some point.
Of course, you could simply blow the house up and solve all your problems. But then you’d have to figure out what kind of device would cause the right amount of damage, smuggle it into the house without anyone noticing, and decide whether or not you want there to be any survivors. Depending on the answer to that question, you’re left with a whole new set of problems.
If being a god was easy, anyone could do it.