Authorguy's Blog

Story logic 1

Posted on: October 19, 2010


My post on story flow a few days back could be taken as an example of story logic, although I would think it a very small part.  My usual take on story logic is more directed to the creation of the story, spinning out the logic of the characters as they have to deal with the situations in which they find themselves.  Those situations may or may not have a logic of their own, depending on whether it’s just some random crap I made up to make the story more interesting and give my characters something to do, or if it follows from some previous situation.   Quite often I make up random crap (or said crap appears in my head) and then from there I can spin a logic which makes my text sound brilliantly spontaneous, embody that logic in a flow.  One of the signs that a thread of logic doesn’t work is that I can’t make a flow for it.   That’s what being a pantser is all about.  From the reader’s point of view I don’t know if it looks all that different.

On the other hand, a character shouldn’t be all story logic, otherwise they’d be dull.  I’ve read many books, the ones I end up using as negative examples, where every character introduced has a Purpose, which you can read a mile away.  I didn’t mind that in Pilgrim’s Progress or Dante’s Inferno, where that’s the point, but in modern literature I don’t want or like getting bludgeoned across the noggin with the Moral of the Story.  Even if there is one.  Even the brilliant exponent of rationalism, Immanuel Kant, recognized that there is more to beauty than mere regularity of form.

Real people aren’t perfectly regular, real characters shouldn’t be either.  I may introduce a character to fill a recognized need–in fact that’s usually the reason I introduce a character–but they will always reveal more of themselves than I put into them when I first turned around and found them there.   When I first thought up Septas Navak, he was intended to be a belligerent prick who’d challenge Tarkas to a duel, and he was.  Little did I know that he would reappear at the end of the story, just as belligerent, less of a prick, more honorable, and overall just a better person and I liked him more.  What changed him?  I don’t know, but he and his must have gone through some pretty tough times while I was following Tarkas around as he saved the world.  Lintas Tiris didn’t come back at all, but he was a snarky bastard and I liked him a lot less so that was no surprise.  Neither Candace nor Cynthia existed when I started St. Martin’s Moon, but they were crucial to the whole resolution, the key to Marquand’s lock, so to speak, even if that is a reversal of the usual gender symbolism.

Heroes and villains are even harder to do.  They’re supposed to be more Gooder or more Badder than the other characters, after all, the trick is to keep them within the bounds of humanity.  Villains are easier, they usually just want too much, and they have the capacity to try to get what they want.  It’s the consequences of their villainy that are the problem.  Villains who are out to destroy the world are bland, even if their names are Palpatine and Sauron, but a villain who wants the woman he loves, when getting her will destroy the world…Some potential there.  Heroes are much harder, which is why I never start them at the top.  They usually reach the top, though, and then we have to either drop them down again (which I hate) or enlarge the world.  This requires that I enlarge me.  That’s why it’s hard.

What has story logic done for you?

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2 Responses to "Story logic 1"

Great post.
It always amazes me how I’m prepared for one of my characters to do something, but they go in a different direction on their own that makes more sense.

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Many times I’ve gotten stalled because I want the story to go one way and the character wants it to go somewhere else. I have a post from July called ‘Stop trying to write me and write me!’ on that theme. Another piece of story logic is the genre. At the moment I’m trying to write a comic piece, and I recently got stalled waiting until I was in a comic frame of mind to write it.

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