Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Basic Principles in Writing

Can animals talk to humans in stories and have the humans understand them? I have recently heard this concept is taboo and should never be implemented in a children's story. Guess what? The fractured fairy-tale I wrote uses this concept, (briefly) and I was wondering if that's, perhaps, part of the reason why it's being passed over.
This is one of those things that can be quite tricky to achieve, and speaks to the skill of the writer in world-building.

World Building level 1: Many people think of world building as just imagining another reality. (Whether it's our normal world with some added magic, or vampires, or zombie cheerleaders; or a completely different world.)

World Building level 2: Some people realize that an important part of world building is tone. Why is it OK for Winnie the Pooh to speak to Christopher Robin? Why is it OK for Despereaux to speak to the Princess? Why is it OK for Jennie to speak to Baby? Because we have a clear sense --from the start-- of what kind of story we're in, and so when there is communication between humans and animals, we aren't surprised, and it doesn't break our suspension of disbelief.

World Building level 3: A few dedicated writers believe that world building involves figuring out the rules of your alternate reality and sticking to them. (Though, as J. K. Rowling's example proves, this level of world building is not necessary to success.)

The times when I see animals and humans talking to each other not work is when the writer has not given the reader a clear enough picture of what reality we're in.

Which brings us back to perhaps the two most BASIC PRINCIPLES OF WRITING:

1. Execution Is Everything.
If you can figure out how to do anything well, you can do anything.

2. Never Say Never.
If you can figure out how to do anything well, you can do anything.


Literaticat said...

it's one thing for animals to talk - at least they have effing MOUTHS.

it is quite another thing for ashtrays, tracksuits, tissues, nailfiles, woven baskets, granite slabs, moonbeams, lunchboxes, area rugs, toupees and bottles of aquavit to talk. BOO TO TALKING INANIMATE OBJECTS!

Chris Eldin said...

I came over to thank you for a great post. But I'm choking on the visual of talking area rugs! HAHAHA

Anonymous said...

Nope. No talking area rugs for nit-picky editors.

(Scratches head.);)

Susan at Stony River said...

Well, Piers Anthony got away with talking area rugs and bedposts and more, quite successfully.

That's the problem, isn't it? Almost any writer trying anything can find at least ONE published (if not best-selling) example of what they're trying to achieve, and say, 'Well, THEY did it...'

Thanks EA for the pointers! Just glad I've got no talking non-peoples in my own work, for now.

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