Thursday, April 7, 2011

That would never happen

Last night started innocently enough. Techno asked me what I was working on and I explained I was rethinking the opening of a YA SF novel I'm going to be starting in May. (There's a reason I'm not starting it until May, but more about that in another post). Originally I had planned to open with my MC waking up, but I have learned that this is a BAD THING. Techno agreed that I could do better and we idly kicked around a few thoughts. Although he's supportive of me, he doesn't really get involved in plotting unless I ask him a specific question. On the rare occasions that we have in-depth plot talks I usually end up getting no help for the thing that I'm working on but enough ideas to generate half a dozen more novels. Ideas are something I don't need at the moment. I have a bumblebee mentality, always looking for the shiniest, tastiest morsel, and right now I just want to get something finished; but it was nice to be chatting away so when he asked me where the story would be going I was caught off guard, and told him. To give the guy his due, he actually said "no, don't tell me any more or you know what will happen." "No, it's fine " said I. "I like hearing your ideas."

Yeah, okay. An hour later, all the SF parts of my novel have been thrown out and I'm back to the drawing board. Apparently, I messed with the laws of physics. Even for fiction this isn't good – unless of course messing with the laws of physics is part of the story. Which, obviously it isn't. Seriously though, who knew the laws of physics were relevant in a story about a parallel universe?

As annoying as this is for me, Techno has reminded me of something. It doesn't matter if something isn't possible in the real world; if you're going to pretend it is, you damn well better make it sound like it could be. How many times have you read a book or watched a film and been happy to accept invisible men, flying cars, alien invasion or any variation thereof, but that one little detail – such as how they travel – seems to jar, and you find yourself saying 'that would never happen like that'. We're prepared to suspend any amount of disbelief for a good story but the writer needs to make it seem as though it could be possible or we're just not going to buy what's being sold.

I love my YA SF story. I'm still going to tell it, but it needs a lot more research than I originally thought. When Techno tells me 'I don't think your 17 year old girl would say that', I'll listen to what he has to say but make up my own mind. When he tells me 'If your 17 year old girl does that, according to what we know right now this is going to be the unintended consequence' then I'll take his advice.

If I want to tell an unbelievable story I have to make it believable. That's the bit I'm working on, so you'll never put my book down and say 'that would never happen like that.'

And in case you were wondering, yep, he gave me ideas for two more totally different stories!

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