WE’RE BETTER THAN THAT

HOW TO USE YOUR WORLD IN ALL FICTION

I would like to post one more thing about world building since I took Friday off. I’d like to keep a promise that I made early on that I would show the importance of world building to all fiction writers. Keep in mind that these topics will be explored in even more detail later on, but these posts have merely been introductions to topics.

So you are a fiction writer, but your world is already built. You protag lives in a land that we all know and love…or would love to love…a land called earth. There are nearly 300 nations and there are allies and enemies and technology and modernization and starvation.

We shouldn’t have to care about world building too much because the rules are already set, right? Wrong. Writing fiction for today can be more of a challenge in some ways because our readers know our rules, and they know them well.

Here are some fictional “no-no’s.”
1) Cell phones cannot conveniently lose signal whenever your protag needs to call for help in the house where the murder is. In 2012, it’s tacky and lazy. And you’re better than that. How often do we really lose our cell phone signal these days? And in most cases, if we were caught in a perilous situation, I think we’d just turn on our roaming. I mean, could we really stomach the $1.25 / minute charge if our lives were in danger? On second thought, probably not. Something about $1.25 a minute just seems a little much. I’d rather take the knife to the stomach instead.

If you say in the outset, however, that your main characters are heading off into a no signal area, then that works. But why not have them be proactive about it. People who are going into locations without a signal will usually turn off phone to conserve the battery. There’s much more tension in my opinion when you see your character turn off his phone rather to have it as silent plot hole that’s about to emerge as your character stumbles away from the killers down the side of the mountain, trips on a loose tree root, his phone slides out of his satchel, and the voila! The signal has returned!

2) Ten minutes underwater for dramatic tension doesn’t create tension at all. It creates a dead character and the violent end to your protag’s life as he writhes in one of the worse pains he has ever experienced — drowning.

So we can’t let our main characters stay underwater for ten minutes unless we are writing a story about a person who is either dead or severely brain-damaged.

3) Characters should not be able to Live La Vida Loca and survive a ”bullet to the brain”. That just doesn’t work — not even in the name of dramatic fiction.

4) If you are writing a romance, your beautiful damsel cannot…sorry…WILL NOT fall in love with a male whore who never gives up his whoring. It just doesn’t make sense.

5) Jumping fifty stories off of a building and landing in a dumpster full of trash = suicide.

6) And 24 got away with this for a few years, but after a few seasons, the real critics set aside their love for the show and broke it down like this: There’s no way that Jack Bauer could EVER travel from North LA to South LA in 12 minutes…especially not on the “Slow-0-5” (US 405).

There are so many more things to consider about the world that we live in, but we can’t break the rules just to progress our plot. If people commit crimes, they WILL be chased by the governing authorities. They just will. The police don’t offer unconditional pardons to serial killers just to make our story “end happily.”

We have to be more responsible than that, and we can be because we are writers, and THIS IS SPARTA! I mean America!

Thank you so much for spending the past few minutes with me. Y’all come back now, ya here? That’s my southern hospitality oozing out.

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8 thoughts on “WE’RE BETTER THAN THAT

  1. sfbell09

    You are so very correct. The reader will be the first to notice the hole in your cleverly constructed plot if (for instance) the villian is able to call in reinforcements in the same supposed ‘dead’ zone that the protag is in. (Dude must have Verizon.)

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      SFBELL09 -That’s so true. It’s always amazing when the villain can break the rules, but the protagonist cannot. Amazing is not exactly the word for it — annoying works much better.

      Reply
  2. journeyofjordannaeast

    This was awesome. Especially since I’m currently reading a book where the protagonist’s phone was roaming in DEATH VALLEY and they damn near died rather than cough up the extra dough. Also, I just recently finished the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy and (SPOILER ALERT) I hated the fact that Lisbeth was shot in the head and lived to tell about it without any mental defect or anything. Ugh.

    Reply
    1. William Stadler Post author

      Thanks, Jordan. Those “convenient” miracles are nothing short of disappointing when they happen.

      And, yeah, I was going to make the Dragon Tatoo books my next read (probably still will), but to know that Lisabeth takes a shot in the head…that’s just tough for me to stomach. haha

      Reply
        1. William Stadler Post author

          LOL you didn’t. I’m still going to read it. And the only reason I was going to read it was because I wanted to see how the author built sympathy for Lisabeth. Especially after seeing the movie. So I’m still intrigued 🙂

          Reply

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