Happy Friday! Casey Wyatt here. In five days, my novel MYSTIC INK, will be published. And it got me to thinking about myths and legends. The story is based on the idea of the Gods of Old living among us mere mortals.
Like all writers, I love to play the “what if” game. The possibilities are endless and it’s a lot of fun. Eventually, you have to stop playing the game and get down to the business of plotting the story. And along with it comes world building. Essentially creating a mythology or “rules of the world”.
No matter the genre of the story, they all have to have these rules. And once established, as the author, you’d best stick with them. As a reader, there is nothing more annoying than when an author bends or breaks the rules of their universe.
Drives me bonkers!! I’m all for thinking outside of the box, but the story has to make sense and follow the rules you’ve set forth. A story is like a contract between you and the reader. So if you say, the heroine is allergic to strawberries, you can’t turn around a hundred pages later, and have her eating strawberries with no side effects. Or, if you are in a world where vampires shun the sun, the vampires shouldn’t be walking around at noon in broad daylight.
Rule bending can take many forms. Even minor things, like continuity gaffes. Ever read a book where the hero’s eyes go from sparkling sapphire to a rich brown? (Okay, maybe in paranormals that can happen, but in romantic suspense or historicals, it doesn’t work – gaffe alert!).
And don’t get me started on the “deus ex machina” or “God from the machine” move. This is the first cousin of rule bending. It’s when, out of nowhere, something (be it an object or person) suddenly appears in the 11th hour and saves the day. A popular example, the eagle in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, who plucks Frodo and Sam off of Mount Doom in the nick of time.
So here’s my plea to writer’s everywhere (which includes screenwriters!), please be consistent and follow your own world’s mythology. Be truthful with us and don’t break your own rules for convience’s sake. Even if you have all these details straight in your head, it doesn’t mean the reader can see inside your brain. They can only experience what you have presented on the page.
And for readers and viewers alike, go easy on us writers. We do our best to ensure continuity, but it’s not always easy. Years can pass between writing books, so bear with us, if we don’t always get our own universes correct.
So Scribes fans, how obessed are you with continuity in books and movies? Do you cut your favorite authors slack or do you throw down the book in disgust at flagrant violations of a world’s rules? What’s your favorite (or worst) “deus ex machina” moment?