I’m having a lazy week this week, so you’re getting two-cross posted things. Today it’s a day old post about world building the right way. And also my innate tendency to capitalize literally Everything.
Ich habe eine Shift Key!
But I don’t ever talk about the good stuff, so today we’re gonna try that.
A friend and I were talking about Harry Potter this week, because her small human just hit book 7 and she was all excited because not only was the small human in for a rollercoaster of feels (and if small human is like me, feels and anger) they’re also in for the joy of rereading. For getting to the end and seeing where all the pieces were that got leaked to us, bit by bit for ages. I promise, right now, if you are a Harry Potter fan you’re thinking of at least one of these.
Last weekend I watched John Wick–which totally aside holy crapballs you need to go watch that movie if you haven’t yet because never has so much happened so perfectly over a dog–and there were so many tiny things. Things you could blink and you’d miss them, but that told you so much about the world you were temporarily inhabiting.
And all of this was still just swirling around in my head, and then I’m looking at a blank blog page and it’s Well Written Wednesday and…well. I had a headache with pictures. Sometimes I’m just as guilty as everybody else of focusing on the negatives of a thing and not the positives. So what are some positives of world building?
A biggest one to me is what I call Rationality. I didn’t have a German moment, I capitalized that on purpose. Literature people and writers and movie people all talk about suspension of disbelief, but very rarely–at least to my ears–do they talk about why that fails. At least not above “it was too fantastic, it didn’t work” which is almost stupidly unhelpful. It’s not enough to ask your audience to suspend disbelief, you have to give them something to believe in instead. You have to ground them in a universe will laws and backstory and minutia, even if you never tell them what every detail is. Rationality means your universe works within itself, and doesn’t fall apart when you start looking past the front bits.
The right details can give even the most ridiculous thing Rationality (now I’m capitalizing it just to be a butt). They can give the audience tie points so your big left-turn, full twist reveal in act three doesn’t turn into a wall-banger. That’s a good thing, your number one job as a writer is to avoid wall-banger territory.
Strive for Rationality. Sure, you’ll get other perks too. Permanence in the audience’s mind, recidivism (JK Rowling is a freaking life-ruiner who makes me utterly loathe her characters, but I keep reading her books anyway). But at least if you can manage Rationality you won’t fall utterly off the tracks and find your poor beloved literary-babies sliding down a wall to be forever muffled by a carpet of shame.
And come back Friday, where we’ll talk about the possible future of packaged food!
Wow, that sounded boring. Come back anyway. I’ll try to make it interesting.