Saturday, December 27, 2014
The Chainsaw - Part 2: Confusion Over the Norm
This is actually more about adding something that taking it away, but it's really, really important (and one of my biggest weak points).
If you want to throw a world into chaos, you can't just show us chaos. If you want to turn a character's life upside down, you can't just show us everything turned over. You have to establish the norm first.
This is really important if you're doing a story where characters are subversive or resistant to the culture they live in. There will be very little sense of conflict and danger if the reader/audience has no idea what the culture that character lives in is like.
Really, both need to be clearly defined. The novel I'm revising right now has characters living in a world where the ruling class believes that they are immortal gods living on earth. The main characters, conversely, believe in an all-powerful, singular, spiritual god. I've spent all this time showing people being shocked by all their blasphemy, but just today I realized I never really explained how the religion of the world at large works!
The reader won't understand the shock people experience at the character's subversive behavior, because I never let them know why it's subversive!
I'm a bit embarrassed...this is plot structure 101 stuff, here.