Knowing the Details

“It’s only a skeleton.”
“He’s eating a biscuit.”
“It’s just standing there. It’s not even making woo-woo noises!”

novelling 007At the weekend, I watched the Hogfather. It’s one of my go-to movies in terms of studying story-telling. The characterisation always makes me smile – each major character has a distinct personality.

Still in writer/editor mode, I kept an eye out for the details that really set the world up. They have day and night, and discuss whether or not the sun will come up. As I watched the movie I wondered about the fact the Discworld is, well… a disc. How do night and day happen; how can sunrises exist in the same way as on earth?

This is the problem with working out my own worlds – I tend to get bogged down in the details.

In Planes Shifter, I have a group of hawks who began with two breeding pairs. I spent a good hour looking up the breeding patterns of hawks and mapping out how many there would be after a certain number of years. I’m aware that this a detail that probably wouldn’t bother most of my readers – ten years to bring about fifty hawks is probably fine; even without knowledge of the average number of chicks that survive per clutch of eggs. But as the creator, I need to know the details.

For the reader to trust that is how many birds are there, I needed to work out how many eggs would survive to be adult birds, and then get to maturity in order to breed; and to have someone else to breed with that’s not a sibling… I used to want to share that knowledge with the reader – the maths and the backstory. Now, I just keep those notes in my mind and let the reader enjoy the sight of fifty birds soaring on thermals across the dusty plains.

I don’t need to know how the discworld has a “sunrise” when it doesn’t seem to spin in a way that would hide it from the light. I can just trust that in the universe Terry Pratchett created, that is how it is.

My role is to believe that he must know, and to just enjoy the view of the dawn.

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