You know what’s simultaneously awesome and sucky?
Because, apparently, when you’re writing…well…anything, your story has to actually make sense. Which is just ridiculous.
I mean, I’ve got to come up with a dynamic plot, well-rounded characters, and a vivid setting. But now it’s got to make sense? I can’t just insert some rainbow-farting unicorns into my techno thriller?
(Frankly, I am of the belief that more techno thrillers should include rainbow-farting unicorns. Because it’s impossible to seriously hack when there’s a rainbow-farting unicorn in the room. And that’s called dramatic tension.)
Think of it this way: logic + writing is a bell curve.
The far left is when you’re blocked and struggling to get each and every word on the page. The kind of blocked where you can’t even form complete sentences, where each word is a genuine surprise because you honestly didn’t think it was ever going to happen. Your brain is too busy and overheated to concern itself with things like character motivation or world building.
Or the laws of physics. Those always get me.
And then, at the far right of the bell curve is when you are in the zone. The words are just flowing and the world is just you and your word doc (or notepad, depending on how you work). You are just trying to get everything down as fast as you can, you don’t have time for things like reason.
Psh. You laugh in the face of reason. And why shouldn’t you? You are Muse blessed, and the writing is effortless.
Well, until the Muse eventually leaves you (alas, she is a fickle lady). And then you’re left with a lot of words and no foundation to support you and a crap ton of rainbow-farting unicorns (seriously, why did you insert all those rainbow-farting unicorns into that contemporary romance? You know unicorns are banned from AP Calculus).
And if you’re in the middle of the bell curve: congrats. You are the chosen one. Bask in the glow of your blessed status.
But let’s face it: when you’re writing, sometimes it’s just easier to say, “eh, I’ll figure this out later” and then forget about it. Or you get a really sparkly idea and love it so much, you figure you’ll find a way to justify it.
And then you never do.
Which is no good for the reader. I mean, to enjoy a story, you need to at least understand it. Right?
Which is why logic sucks. Logic and reason are the worst. Because they’re so much harder to pin down than plot, than character, than setting, than emotion, than anything.
So how do you fill in the plot holes, justify your characters actions, or explain those Calculus-studying rainbow-farting unicorns?
You turn into a little kid.
It’s actually something I heard a tech CEO say on a TED Talk: you know how little kids do that annoying thing where they ask you “why” until you go crazy?
Do that to yourself.
(Well, specifically do it three times. Don’t drive yourself nuts.)
Whenever you get an idea, ask yourself “why?” Then, when you come up with an explanation, ask “why” again. And again.
Three times, and you’re good.
There are rainbow-farting unicorns in AP Calculus.
Because they need to learn advanced math and don’t have the education available in their own realm to kickstart an industrial revolution and cause more financial mobility among the masses.
Because the oppressive ruling bicorn regime (they have two horns! Of course they have power!) has limited the people’s…well, unicorns’ access to higher education.
Because the unicorn/bicorn realm was devastated after years of infighting, and the bicorns are just trying to prevent another outbreak of war by curbing the unicorns’ access to resources, but absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely, and the bicorns have gone mad with power.
(…ok. But why are they farting rainbows?
Because that day’s cafeteria lunch special was black bean burritos, and unicorns have very little control over their sphincter.)
Boom. Unicorns in calculus explained.
Okay, granted, it’s not a very good example, but it is a good trick. So the next time someone points out a plot hole in your story, or asks what a character’s motivation is in a scene, or just plain says “I don’t understand”, ask yourself “why?”
Ask it three times.
Hopefully then you’ll understand your story a little better and—even better—your reader will too.