Sad Little Turtle in a Sad Little Swamp

OK, I shouldn’t butcher Joss Whedon, but I couldn’t think of another title.

One of the great things about writing fiction is the total control. One of the horrible things about writing fiction is the total control. Odd, isn’t it?

Being a control freak, I love that I get to make the rules, the people, and the outcomes. I control the vertical. I control the horizontal.

The downside is when I don’t know what comes next, I have no one to blame or to ask. Sure, I can ask for opinions, but ultimately, the final decision is mine to make.

Example: I can’t decide if my alien races in Star of Justice are different like humans (same species with different physical characteristics) or different in kind (like cats and dogs) or some sort of in-between (like horses and donkeys – or is it mules?). What difference does it make, you ask? Well, all the difference in the world (pardon the pun) if I want half-breeds. Forget for a moment the grammatical issues of whether or not to capitalize the race names. Can a flamas and a druid have children? They are certainly both able to breed with humans, so should they be able to breed with each other?

I’m not saying they would, but I need to know if it’s possible. It also affects exactly how the races look. If the differences are only skin deep, then all the races would have the same basic physiology, from faun hoofpads to druid extended ankle bones. It doesn’t matter so much in Star of Justice because exposure to alien races is fairly limited. Not the case in book 2. I’m up against a wall and it’s decision-time.

Example two: I’m writing a short story about a knightly challenge and I don’t know how to solve the challenge.

Then why did I think it up, you ask? Because writers are insane: speculative writers more so than most. I can’t help myself. Once again, I can ask opinions but the final choice is mine.

I’ve been reading The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. I think it’s what Kat would call a literary book, which means while reading it I often wonder what the writer was ingesting while writing it. One early passage stood out to me, though.

“When you are writing a book; when you are well into writing it, and know what comes next, and yet cannot go on; when every morning for week or a month you enter its room and turn your back on it; then the trouble is either of two things. Either the structure has forked, so the narrative, or the logic, has developed a hairline fracture that will shortly split up the middle – or you are approaching a fatal mistake. What you had planned will not do. If you pursue your present course, the book will explode or collapse, and you do not know about it yet, quite.”

Those actually sound like the same thing to me, but what do I know? I’m not literary.

I’ve felt this. SOJ book 2, the short story… That niggling in the back of the brain warning of impending doom approaching with each keystroke. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there. The first trembles of the worldquake.

Oh well. Since I am insane, I’ll keep tapping and hope my brilliance wins out and I find some fantastical way to solve the unsolvable. Not likely, I agree, but possible. I’ve done it before.

With a little help from the first Worldbuilder, of course.

About Robynn Tolbert

Born in Kansas and born again at age six, Robynn has published two novels and started her third. Robynn, aka Ranunculus Turtle, lives in Kansas with a clowder of cats, a patient dog and a garden.

15 comments on “Sad Little Turtle in a Sad Little Swamp

  1. Ah, the responsibility and the power of being the creator of a universe. Daunting, to say the least.

    Funny, the questions we have to answer. A while back, my crit partner asked me, “wait…if this race came about by a divine judgment on a group of men, how is it they don’t just die out, end of problem in one generation?” While sometimes we don’t want to get side tracked by things like how male lizard people perpetuate their species, these are the questions we create for ourselves that must be answered, eh?

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. When you run into these bug-a-boos, it’s always helpful to have a critique group handy to brainstorm with. Or at least, so I found it, when I was in Colorado. Now here, where I have no time or ability to focus to write–I also haven’t managed to put together a critique group. (I’d hoped that having one might give me new purpose in writing, but so far, no such thing on the horizon)

    Hoping you have one handy! 😉

  3. I can so relate to this. 😉

  4. Totally understand this sort of decision points and struggle. True, we spec writers don’t have to do the same sort of “research” (although the best of them do plenty, make no mistake), but when you decide on a made up world, you do have to actually make it up. There is no “right” answer like the researchers can find if they search deep enough. However, each choice comes with pros and cons that have to be dealt with in the story.

    And I know the whole thing of “Well, I could fudge it in book 1 but now we’re up close and personal and I’ve got to know/decide.”

    In my early drafts of Forger of Dreams, I had elves running around and dwarves mentioned. But as I worked my way through the sequel, when my characters actually visit the center of the “elven” culture, I decided that I didn’t want elves any more. I ended up taking the elves and dwarves out entirely, but since I still needed a culture there for the storyline, I had tons of decisions to make. I replaced it with a “new” race, but a bunch of my characters that worked great as elves, didn’t work any more. It took a ton of reworking and I still haven’t revised all the books affected by the changes. At least one reader was upset and keeps hoping that I’ll put the elves back, but once you pass the decision point and it feels right, then the farther you go, the more committed you are.

    I agree with Krysti – brainstorm with a good critique group and see the different ideas that you can come up with. But then it does come back to you making that final decision. Good luck with it.

  5. What? You mean your stories don’t write themselves into bestselling novels? You need a muse-infused pen just like mine. hehehe… No, I so know what you mean!

  6. Aaaaand…that is why I love writing fantasy. With magic :). Comes in ever so handy.

    As for the breeding thing–biologically speaking. if each of those species were able to breed with humans, then *genetically* they would match up with each other and be able to breed. There could, of course, be physical barriers to such….like technically a Great Dane and Chihuahua would genetically match up fine, but the, er, act itself poses a problem ;). I doubt you want to get into *that* in your book, though!

    • Don’t worry, that’s why Humans created artificial insemination and other such technologies!

      Because surely the ideal and ultimate genetic combination is just beyond all these shortsighted natural limitations… right?

  7. Never put anything past me, Kat, especially in this sequel. 😉

  8. Can you imagine if the CREATOR had quandaries like this? Lol.

    Best thing? Control
    Worst thing? Control.
    Kind of like the best thing about rock & roll? Excess.
    The worst thing about rock & roll? Excess.

    Great post!

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