Sunday, May 10, 2015

Locked In

I love stories with over-arching arcs.  It helps me feel out a full universe within a story, and it becomes a world unto itself.  However, that doesn't mean that such things don't come with pitfalls.

I've talked often about the need for consistency in your writing.  The trouble with this occurs when you go so far down a road that you don't know how to get out.  Have you ever found yourself wanting to write something a certain way, only to discover that it would flip that world on its head?  I have, and it gets frustrating.  Maybe I want the aliens to design an overall battle strategy, but I've already locked them in as creatures of pure instinct, and designing cohesive strategy would destroy the premise of their existence.  Or perhaps I want a character to act in some devious way to achieve his ends, only to remember that I implanted a device in his skull that would immediately kill him if he ever did.

This is why planning is important, and I mean beyond a simple outline.  We have to have vision well past our first story and need to think just how far we want to go with what we're writing.  An outline can provide a path to part of the story, but it rarely goes far in order to keep the story free-wheeling.  And that's where we get into trouble.

When we fail to think past the horizon, we create all sorts of boxes that our story must fit into, and the further into said story, the more boxes we've created.  Readers abandon us if our world strays wildly from the foundation we just spent the past few pages or novels building.

It's a mixed bag - the road our journey runs along opens up new possibilities for future stories, but it also closes off others.  The best way to avoid this is to understand where you've created a box that is too restrictive, and to do so before you publish(once it's out there, it's too late).  So plan ahead if you can, but also look hard at the moment and know that each decision affects the ones afterwards.

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