Tuesday, January 8, 2008

World Building - Tossing A Wrench In The Works

I love limitations. They are my bread and butter when it comes to creating both believable characters and worlds. While imaginative settings can be had, they rapidly fade if the reader cannot believe in them. The same goes for the props a character uses. What is more interesting? A plasma cannon that blasts anything in sight every time you press a button, or one that has a long recharge and a tendency to overheat? Which one sounds more real? People can relate to something that isn’t quite as advertised – we deal with it every day. To watch a character staring in disgust at a machine that won’t work is to empathize with that character – a crucial step in reader enjoyment.

Imagine fantasy where the hero is all-powerful. The spells irresistible. What happens when conflict arises? Well, the reader will yawn their way through the epic battle with little belief in what amounts to a cartoon cutout character. Hence, magic must cost and the hero be something less than a god of war. There must be an element of risk – and that comes from facing limitations.

It is when things don’t work, when plans fail, that the true test of character comes out in a story. In my novel Blade Dancer, the main character herself is flawed from something as simple as inexperience. Being young, she thinks she has all the answers even if the question escapes her. Mix in a culture with its own problems, and a healthy dash of things that don’t always work right, and you have situations not unlike those we experience every day. That promotes belief when we’re talking an alien world with exotic technologies. Exotic doesn’t mean it all works right. It just means that it breaks differently!

Blade Dancer - We chose the wrong side
Coming Feb 2008 from Champagne Books