CiW – A Wizard Didn’t Do It

Writing a book can inspire very strange conversations, especially when that book isn’t centered in reality as we know it.

The reality of the book should have its own rules, for what is reality if not a consistency of experience, the blending of the physical and metaphysical into an established congeal of, well, everything.

A book does not offer a totality of a world, but a glimpse into it. And that glimpse should be consistent. You don’t have to lay the ground rules for everything, but you do have to lay the ground rules for everything the reader is going to glimpse. And in doing so, you must also lay the ground rules for things the reader may never even think about, but those things must be established because firstly they give a truth to the things the reader does see, like how an iceberg is very real and seen above the surface only because of the existence of the bulk of it below the waves.

And second, who’s to say where the readers eye may wander?

The writer guides, walks a fine line between hand holding and herding, but you can’t put blinders on the reader. A good world, a true world, is one established well beyond the boundaries of where the story is actually written.

And so a good story doesn’t excuse inconsistencies by saying, “A wizard did it!”

Unless a wizard actually did.

Do you see my point there?

If a thing seems wild and unbelievable, suspension of disbelief can be achieved if you give sufficient reason.

For instance, lets say you have a girl who eats piece of mushroom and it shrinks her.

If her clothes shrink too and you don’t mention why, that’s unreasonable.

One of three things will happen to the reader.

First, they might not notice. If this is the case, chances are it’ll have a fridge logic effect. That’s when you don’t notice an inconsistency at the time, but later on when doing something completely different it smacks you. It’s a time delay thing, and happens to a large percentage of those who fall into this first category. TV shows and movies get away with this more than books, because a book is a much more intimate thing, and by its very nature is a thing to be thought about.

Second, they notice but they don’t care. If this happens, your reader is apologizing for you.  Do you really want your readers making excuses for your book’s problems? Do you want them feeling sorry for your book?

If they notice and they don’t make excuses, well that’s even worse. At least if they apologize for you that means they care about the story. If not, chances are they’ve moved beyond apathy into hating it.

Third, they notice and they wonder why. This is where the people in the first category end up after fridge logic, but it’s also the place you sometimes actually want your readers to be.

Yes, you want them there, but only for a short time! A good story that dabbles in the fantastic will have these things subtly explained to the reader so that they’ll know without knowing, and when they encounter something fantastic they’ll have a basis for why it’s okay.

A reason for the unreasonable.

And yet there are times when you want that doubt, that little hint of ‘What the?’ or ‘Ah ha!’ to linger just for a moment, before an explanation is offered up.

I’m not talking about an explanation that completely smacks them in the face, or that a character awkwardly delivers in a monologue. No one likes to be talked down to. You’ve invited a stranger into your strange land, and they journey there on their own will. Treat them nicely, and with respect.

Yes, fuck with their emotions and take them on a roller coaster of hating you and loving you, make them wet and sticky and make them boil with rage, warm and fuzzy and whatever else you feel like.

But don’t talk down to them. That’s just insulting. They pay your bills, and even if they hate you they should love you.

So really, when done sparingly and to great effect, a lampshade isn’t too bad every now and then.

So why should a person’s clothes shrink along with her?

The mushroom’s magic, silly.

But, that’s not enough of a reason. And so we must establish rules for it. And thus a conversation happens where it’s discussed exactly what the rules are for magic mushroom shrinking.

Obviously, the clothes shrink because they’re touching the person. So does anything else the person touches shrink as well? Sure!

But what if they’re wearing socks? Then they aren’t touching their shoes. So do the shoes shrink?

What if they have change in their pocket?

If their shoes and change shrink, what about the floor they are transitively touching?

And does the bit of mushroom shrink? Does it have to be ingested?

What if you remove an article of clothing from the person. Like say, she takes off her shoe. Does the shoe instantly get bigger because it’s no longer being touched? Does the shoe get bigger when she gets bigger because even though it’s now independent of her it’s still under the sway of the spell effecting her? Or could she eat more mushroom and get bigger, while the seperate shoe has to wait for the effects to wear off naturally?

And how does all that relate to killing a demented dormouse with a shard of mushroom coated glass?

Well now, I guess you’ll have to wait and see. :D

~Matt Booker

14 thoughts on “CiW – A Wizard Didn’t Do It

  1. That was incredible! But not unreasonable. ^_^

    I wonder how many other writers think about things like this? Not most of the ones on SyFy…

    And what does CiW stand for?

  2. Thanks TD. :)

    CiW is short for the title of the book, and that’s a secret until it’s getting published. (Give me a couple months.)

    ~Matt Booker

  3. Elements of all three of your “one of three things” combined essentially forms the basis of the No-Prize program, which Marvel Comics took advantage of for decades.

    Notice the error, wonder about the error, and make excuses for the error… but it swerved from “feeling sorry” and into interactivity. By covering Marvel’s ass, the reader was made part of the creative process, albeit after the fact.

    Ideally, I think that’s the way most writers want errors (when an outright error does occur) to be treated. Not just “hey, you screwed up”, but “hey, obviously you just forgot to mention this (wink)…” Showing your devotion and appreciation by offering the author a hand rather than a slap, as it were.

  4. I once asked Stan Lee for a no-prize over the twitter machine. He ignored me because Twitter is used as a broadcast medium by his ilk.

    I’m glad that you wrote a new post, Matt. We’ve all missed you terribly.

    I personally like the option that leads to multiple, all potentially correct, interpretations of an event and the forces behind that event. But I think readers generally prefer closure contained within a text, so that they don’t have to look too far beyond it.

    (I’ve decided that CiW stands for Crying in Winter. It’s about Cryokinesis and that was why you kept talking about logical fridges.)

  5. I would imagine that Stan didn’t respond to the No-Prize request because he only gave those out when he was editor… and I believe he hasn’t served in that position since the 70s.

    I’ll grant that it’s rude of him to not even say “Sorry, fresh out” or something… although even then, I’d imagine that Stan could spend all day, every day answering messages. Hardly shocking that he’s not responding to a request for free stuff.

  6. You would imagine that, WOULDN’T YOU?

    I figure his 25,000 followers attacking him with arbitrary nonsense might have been a contributing factor too. c:

  7. Thanks Luke and Esoteric. :)

    I hadn’t even thought about the No Prize!

    I wasn’t trying to pigeon hole things into just the three categories. I just figure these are probably the most common, so I went with them. I’m also not trying to say its okay to do detail for detail’s sake, rather just that at the very least the writer should consider things the reader might consider.

    Also, I’m now very tempted to name the book Crying in Winter, just for kicks. It even kind of fits, but I’ve got to think at least a bit about marketability here, and the real title just fits it better.

    ~Matt Booker

  8. Hi Matt!

    I originally stumbled onto your site due to your Transformer customs, and got introduced to your writing after a bit of browsing. I thought this post was very well thought out and intriguing, and is something anyone writing a story should carefully consider.

    Writers do create worlds, and these worlds should also include what is unseen by the reader, or crazy and sometimes unrepairable inconsistencies may occur.

    With your permission, I would like to mention your article in my own journal, with a properly credited link, of course. I’m in the process of creating my own fantasy comic book, and would like to share your insights regarding the process of creating a story.

    As for the shrinking clothes and shoe?

    It was all a dream in the end, wasn’t it? ;)

    Jon M

  9. Heya Jon. Sure you can quote it. Email me when you do, as I’d like to have a read at what you say on the subject.

    Very nice artwork you have there. :)

    While on the subject, there’s an interesting thing also to consider. I’m talking about hidden consistencies.

    Movies and tv shows can throw random things in the scenery and not even mention them, like an easter egg that could make more sense as the random thing proliferates or more of the world is introduced.

    Comics are probably the middle ground here, full of eye candy but also meant to be mulled over. But you can work things into the background or in little details and as long as they’re not overtly obvious the reader might not even realize until it’s just become a consistent world.

    Books have a tougher time at that, again because they are meant to be thought about. If something is mentioned, it’s expected something is going to happen with it. Not that they can’t, but there’s just much less superfluous detail for it to hide in.

    As for dream logic… Okay, so a wizard did it there and its acceptable, though if dreams are a part of the story they should probably have a certain consistency, a logic of illogic, if they’re going to help the overall story.

    Thanks again, and you’re welcome to stick around and join the comments more.

    ~Matt Booker

  10. “Books have a tougher time at that, again because they are meant to be thought about. If something is mentioned, it’s expected something is going to happen with it. Not that they can’t, but there’s just much less superfluous detail for it to hide in.”

    Readers are trained to expect that EVERYTHING in a book is Chekhov’s Gun. We’re told that things which aren’t are superfluous–bad writing.

    Most of the time, that’s true. Lots of terrible books out there that are, literally, too wordy. Some writers, a select few, do go overboard and are forgiven because they’re really good at it, but they are the exceptions.

    There is the flip side: writing that is too pared down is dry and doesn’t engage the reader. There’s nothing there to get engaged -in-. If someone wants all the excitement of an instruction manual, they wouldn’t pick up a novel.

    Many good writers actually walk a fine line between the two. The old “style vs substance” tightrope.

  11. I’ll be sure to let you know once I mention your article in my journal, thanks! I’m just working on another piece of art that will be accompanying it, but I’ll be sure to let you know.

    When I mentioned dreams in my last post, it was mostly because your descriptions of a girl and her clothes changing size at the same time immediately brought back images of Alice in Wonderland, where the fantastical events of the book turn out to be dreams. I also remember that when I have such dreams of my own (fortunately not as fantastical, but still… “interesting”), what seems to be illogical makes perfect sense in the dream world.

    The subject of hidden consistencies is also something I’ve taken to studying. One rule I keep for my writing is that “nothing happens randomly”. If I put something into my story, it better have a purpose, big or small. Putting something in that doesn’t have a relationship to the narrative, whether it expounds on a theme of the story or its setting, makes that item little more than a distraction.

    One particular “hidden” plot point I enjoyed somewhat recently was in 2007’s Transformers movie. The almost offhand mention of Sam’s failed attempt to join the football team early in the movie actually serves as foreshadowing to the final battle, where Sam ends up running with the ball (the Allspark), Ratchet and Ironhide serving as his blockers, while the Decepticons all try to prevent him from reaching the goal.

  12. Nice to see people talking about more than Walky’s Thong on here again!

    Luke you are now challenged to talk about Walky’s Thong in a way releating to literature theory.

    Hi JonM! Matt has said on here that Alice in Wonderland has something to do with his book. He hasn’t given us much detail yet (GRUMPY FACE) so I don’t know if it is Alice that is in it or just a theme of Alice in Wonderland, but he mentioned killing the dormouse.

    Then again, he has also mentioned chainsaws, psychic women, moo cows, bug aliens, and cosmic horrors being involved.

  13. Hi Matt!

    Just writing to let you know I mentioned your blog on my personal journal, like I mentioned previously. You can find it on my website. Thanks again!

    Jon M

Leave a Reply