Sunday, December 20, 2009

Logic 101

All writing, on some level or another, must make sense. Even if we are writing science fiction or fantasy, we must maintain a level of logic that doesn’t jar the mind too much, or the reader is likely to reject what we say. That is not to say that everything has to be proven in a scientific laboratory, but it must hold to the ‘rules’ that apply to the world we have created. One of my early encounters with reality was an exercise I wrote in a short story course which was supposed to show a simple incident where two people were doing something—it didn’t matter what—that gave the reader a glimpse of who they were, what they were doing, and where the story might go from there. I was going to play it safe and write something very simple. My writing coach gave me a ‘C-’ and said he did not believe it. The scene involved two men sitting at a small table in the outdoor section of a restaurant, drinking coffee. They sipped, enjoyed the fresh spring air, and heard the muted sounds of early morning traffic. How could you not believe that this could happen? Believability involves at least two things. It must flow from the characters in a way that is logical, and it must be what we (the reader) would expect them to do. This is not to say that we can’t have strange twist, but the reader needs to have an Aha! moment where he/she thinks, I should have seen that coming. Mark Twain made an interesting observation when he said, “It’s not what you don’t know that can come back to haunt your, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t true.”

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