Last week, I was very sneaky. A friend and I planned a trip to surprise another friend. And we had a wild and crazy time. But with my friends, a wild time means absconding with the peanuts from the Texas Roadhouse and multiple games of Scrabble while watching Monk. Yes, it was a riot. I had a great time.
But planning the trip and keeping it a secret from my very bright friend was a challenge. And when she started asking me direct questions (and I won't lie) that job became even harder--trying to be evasive without appearing evasive.
Welcome to the world of fiction writing, where lying effectively is what the job is all about. And it is hard work.
Back when I taught school, one of the ways I could tell my kids were lying was when the stories got long. The truth, I discovered, is usually short. Lies, however, we seem to know instinctively, have to be encased in truthful details in order to achieve credibility. All I had to do was ask enough questions, and eventually they would contradict themselves, usually while trying to pull the answers out of the upper left corner of the classroom
The reader has the advantage in fiction. When we, the writers, develop characters, plots and settings, the reader can believe they are real. They get to know them, to see them, to emotionally engage with them. We, on the other hand, are like puppeteers. Creating the magic behind the curtain, we know the characters are only a bit of the fabric of our imaginations. And as we supply the truthful details to fortify our lies, we can never see the whole performance and can forget these telling details. And when we contradict ourselves, we break the magic and pull the reader out of the story too.
This is where discontinuity arises.
Our only defense to keep us from being caught in our lies, is to keep better track of them. Now, it would be great if we could do this mentally, but I have to admit, I've forgotten some of my fictional details. And the organizational materials I used when developing my draft--well, I'll let you know when I find them.
So I'm going to be developing a notebook for my world, if I can use that term even though I'm not writing sci-fi or fantasy. And as I learn how to effectively do that, I thought I'd share a little.
Ok, writers, how do you keep your fictional world(s) straight?