Thursday, June 22, 2017

Spinning Out Of Control

Stories can be a strange thing.  As a writer, I think I know how a story is going to unfold, but it sometimes takes a surprising turn and goes off in an entirely different direction.  I know how artsy-fartsy it sounds to say that we're not creating the story, that we really just sit back and write what we see(like it's a TV show), but it's the truth.  Sometimes we exert control, but mostly we're just along for the everybody else.

However, that can sometimes lead to strange stuff.  This happened to a novel I wrote called The Onyx Cluster.  The book was supposed to detail an arrogant scientist alone in a post-apocalyptic wasteland after a time travel experiment gone wrong.  He would eventually find a group of mutated telepaths who'd manipulated the time stream to cause the very apocalypse that created them.  It was to be a tale of loneliness and introspection that detailed that our best efforts sometimes go astray.  What I wrote instead was an overly complicated story about a guy who became a resistance leader in the future and brought back a psychic child that led authorities on a high speed interstate pursuit.  I'm not sure how I got there.

By the time I got halfway into the book, I had no idea how to untangle the mess I'd created.  I should've done the right thing and scrapped the whole thing before starting over, but we all know how hard it is to just abandon material we've spent months on.  So, God help me, I let that crap-a-thon go to the end.

That doesn't mean I learned no lessons from the fiasco.  The biggest takeaway was that I needed to exert more control over my stories.  Previously, I just wrote down what I saw.  I now tend to grab the wheel a little more strongly.  Reading some great authors, they do the same thing after similar tales of woe.  The most famous one I can think of is Stephen King, who said that The Stand was just going out of control with no direction until he blew up the Boulder Free Zone.  Yes, he was writing down the story he saw, but it was going nowhere, so, as the God of that universe, he introduced some wrath.  It's an important thing to remember.

Get into your story and take charge when you see it going awry.  Yes, it's fun to be as surprised as everyone else as to how a story progresses, but that can lead to silly garbage.  God may not publicly interfere much, but when He does, it can be dramatic.  Always remember that when it comes to the universes you create, you are God, and you must sometimes intervene.

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