Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to open a door

If there's one thing that's guaranteed to make you feel insignificant, it's automatic doors that won't open for you. You know the feeling: you're wandering up to the supermarket entrance, green bag in hand; you step up to the glass sliding doors...and nothing happens. You're left loitering on the outside, like the little match girl, watching the happy, warm shoppers inside loading up their trolleys with imported garlic and 2-for-1 chocolate bars, until finally someone with more presence arrives and you can sneak through behind them. As happened to me this morning.

Maybe it's the way I approach the doors. Perhaps I'm too self-effacing, or I sidle too much. Usually it happens when I'm caught up thinking about something so I don't even notice until I've nearly run into the stupid things. (I'd like to say I'm caught up thinking about plot developments or character arcs or how to solve global warming, but it's more often things like What is dust made of?)

Maybe I need to practise striding in at a precise right-angle to the door. Head-on. Looking the sensor thingo dead in the eye as I do so. Or just find somewhere to shop with manual doors, to save myself the humiliation of being ignored by a machine!

Anyway, to add insult to injury I just discovered that apparently Australia is the 'dumb blonde' of the world! (And apparently it's still acceptable to call blondes dumb.)
Have a bonza day everyone.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fact or Fiction

The thing I like about writing fiction is you can't just make stuff up. (I know, look at me opening with the counter-intuitive statement.)

It's true: every work of fiction has (should have) its own internal logic, and once it's been established, the author has to work within it. In non-fiction, you don't have to justify the events that occur. You simply say, 'It's a true story - it happened to my aunt/grandfather/neighbour's gardener.' If the reader thinks the story is unlikely, that it didn't happen, the author's response is 'Well, it did.' End of.

In fiction, that's not a good enough explanation though. Readers won't swallow wild coincidences or sudden changes in characters' personalities, even though this technically happens often enough in real life. But they'll swallow all sorts of impossibilities as long as they happen logically.

For example, my novel involves one instance of time-travel. 'Time slip' I think is the term for it. It happens once; it's just a plot device to get my mc into a different period. But I was workshopping some of it in class the other day, and the whole discussion got hijacked by the mechanics of time-travel.

'But how does it work?' they wanted to know.
'Er...I dunno,' was my incisive reply.
'Well is it a wormhole? A space-time rip?'
'Um. Maybe. Ok. Yes... a wormhole.'

What I wanted to say was, 'Who bloody cares? It's not important. Do I look like a physicist? What's important is what happens afterward.'

I didn't, because once I thought about it, I was fascinated that what I hadn't thought of as more than a plot-device other people saw as part of the plot. They wanted the logic of it, even though time-travel is, in real life, impossible.

But then I realised my book is not at all sci-fi-y, and there are no physicists in it to explain how the time-travel works, so I changed my mind.

'Um, actually, it's not a wormhole, it's magic.'
'Oh, ok then.'

See? It might be impossible, but as long as it's justified, readers are happy.