Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Don't Explain the Hammerchlorians

There are two maybe three parts to this piece of advice.  And the first of these is quite well explained by the large, pear shaped individual that arrogantly spews his opinions of science-fiction and fantasy in the comic shop that's part of El Goonish Shive's world setting.


Comic in question.

People are going to be accepting of a lot of impossible things without needing much explanation for them to take things as fact for that world setting.  In a sci-fi world, it is rather easy to simply accept cybernetic enhancement, you don't have to explain the nuts and bolts of how cybernetics work.  Likewise, there's never, in thousands of pages of material, anything that nails down just how magic works in Tolkien's Middle Earth, but most of us don't care about that.

It's magic, we don't need to know what's up with it.

However, as part of keeping everything consistent, it is a very good idea to have something on hand to explain to yourself just why everything works.  If you have the nuts and bolts of things decided on, then your story's magic or high-tech will have a sort of consistancy that makes the reader comfortable and helps them know how dangerous or easy a particular action might be, or also answer questions such as "why don't they just travel back in time?"

In addition, at some point, something might happen in your world that requires at least some of the nuts and bolts to be explained so that the plot or setting makes some sense to the reader.

If you have not started with a system of nuts and bolts to explain how and why things work and suddenly find yourself in a position where you have to explain those nuts and bolts, then you have a problem.  The actual creation of the nuts and bolts isn't the problem so much as the problem is in creating nuts and bolts that work with anything which you may have done in the past.

Especially if you've been writing said story for some time before the necessity arises.

Midichlorians never become a plot point and only serve as a method for Qui-Gon to test Anakin's potential in using the force.  There was never any reason to explain that facet of the universe and it was pretty much completely ignored through all the next three movies.

However, the EGS story linked in the top is an example of when the nuts and bolts have to be explained.

In the course of the story, the Secret Origin of Tiffany Susan Pompoms (insert Freedom Force Narrator Voice), is revealed for all the readers, including a very important character defining point that changed Susan from the uncertain, shy young girl to someone who's basically tried to shut down emotionally.

The Hammers, the way she gained access to them and the way they were brought into existence are very key points of Susan's past and her following character development.  Explaining them is no longer an extraneous piece meant to fluff the pages up but rather a very efficient vehicle to drive character development in not only Susan, but the other three characters as well. It also gives us a peek at the politics of being an immortal.

There are innumerable points in that story that were useful and even necessary to reveal.

Thus, the Hammerchlorians had to be explained.

Looking toward Bystander, there is no one in the current novel that has the slightest inkling of how Lucretia's powers work.  In fact, none of them have the real facts behind how people really develop superpowers at all, but rather have assumed "facts' based on the beliefs of various people.

The narration is third person, but it focuses on the thoughts of one character at a time, often a character other than Lucretia.

Even if the narrator were completely separate, however, there is no need to explain what Lucretia can do anymore than: "Lucretia has superhuman strength, toughness and senses and that's that."  There's no need to describe anything more than that.

However, later in the series plan, there will come villains that are doing things that have to be defeated in ways that don't exist in the real world.  The nuts and bolts of how superpowers operate will start becoming necessary at that point.

Likewise, I have only given glimpses of Lucretia's psychological make up.  Right now, you only need to realize that she is a irresponsible, promiscuous alcoholic with a few mental quirks and a near compulsion for stopping bad things from happening.  There isn't a need to look much deeper than that.

However, I did receive complaints from a pre-reader that I needed to explain something of the history of the world to that point.  That suggestion resulted in the scene with Lucretia harranguing the college students about their topic.

It was clear that I did need to explain something of what the broader world was like.

Despite the fact that I don't need to explain those things yet, for Bystander and Greenwater each, I already have pages on pages of material which currently is meant for my eyes and the eyes of my pre-readers only.  I've got history timelines, language discussions, glossaries of terms, lists of people and organizations, metaphysical write-ups and a discussion on Lucretia herself.

I have almost enough material to write an entire book showcasing the world of Bystander.  After some spoilers are revealed, I might just do that for an RPG sourcebook.  Until then, it is unnecessary information.

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