structure, part two

This is a longer post.
But first, the weather report:


It’s 21 °C in this beautiful city and everyone is happy.
Decent north-alpine temperatures.
The weather has obviously stopped misbehaving.


Ice-cream is no longer a must to cool down, which is a pity.


There are a lot of tourists and school excursions about,
the first calm and interested, the latter distracted and exuberant,
filling the city with people, money and noise.


Not that anyone’s complaining…


Anna Decke 1


Structure (II)


Today we’ll look into World-building and Perspective.


The first thing you have to remember is that your readers are humans, too.
This is ‘facepalm’ obvious, but consider what this means.


If your readers are humans, too, they have a human body, and so they know the limits of what a human is able to perceive. This is where you can lose the reader entirely if you break basic ‘human rules’.


‘Human rules’ are, for example, what reactions Person A can perceive in Person B. And this is where it gets tricky, because the range depends on what is accepted as perceptible in the fictional world you build.


Let us take our previous three examples in Structure, Part One:
  • a place like Middle-earth/Westeros/Narnia,
  • a ‘realist’ Manhattan,
  • and a future London with a Ministry of Legalised Reptiles and citizens with pet dragons.


In the Middlle-earth/Westeros/Narnia setting, there may well be magical people(s) who are able to read minds, raise objects by spells and/or will-power, and transform into other forms (animate or inanimate). There are, however, rules and laws to do this, rules and laws equal to those of physics and causality that we live with and apply daily.


Thus, in the world you have built, there is probably also an accepted system by which to acquire these skills and powers. If they are acquired genetically, then there are quite likely means by which to hone these skills and powers; often by ways of tutors, masters, academies etc. (Harry Potter fans should know).


Yet, there are also limits to these skills and powers, and consequences when they are misused, or when their rules and laws are ignored/broken (e.g. insanity, wide-scale destruction, horrible disfigurements and the like).


In such a world, humans and humanoid species who have these skills and powers are able to perceive more than your general human on Planet Earth (to HP fans: your generic Muggle) – however: Always within the limits set by the rules and laws underlying these powers and skills.


‘Realist’ Manhattan
Conversely, in a ‘realist’ Manhattan world with corporate coffee-shops every few blocks off Lexington, the above no longer works as such.


Mind-reading and telekinesis have to be taken either a) with a large bit of salt, or b) seen to be a hoax from the start, or c) show a character’s exceptional observational skills that go beyond the range of ‘the norm’.


If c) is the case, then these exceptional skills and powers of observation usually cause the respective character a lot of social problems. This is often the case with highly perceptive and very intelligent criminal detectives who can see more than their colleagues, and the rest of humanity, but are generally considered slightly crazy bordering on sociopathic. (BBC Sherlock Holmes fans should be familiar with this kind of character).


Transmogrification will remain genuinely impossible in the ‘realist’ Manhattan world, since real-world humans have yet to be seen to transform into tabby cats, for example. Unless, of course, drugs are involved, or the character is mentally unstable: then a lot of strange things can happen during a hallucination.


Writing Tools


London, Ministry of Legalised Reptiles
Finally in the future London with a Ministry of Legalised Reptiles and corporate firefighters, the question of what humans can perceive in this reality depends entirely on the world you build.


The key is consistency.


If the humans in this London are just like humans in ‘realist’ Manhattan, then the characters can’t deduct thoughts and feelings from other characters beyond the norm, as in, what real-world humans experience themselves.


This means that your human characters can see another’s anger, fear, joy, sorrow and affection in their words, facial expressions and tone of voice. Their actions, too, can speak volumes. Beyond that you are in very risky territory. In a world akin to ‘realist’ Manhattan, a character cannot see or hear another character’s thoughts and feelings as if they were their own.


The need for consistency is the same in all three possible worlds: rules and laws apply as to


  • WHO can perceive WHAT
  • HOW MUCH of that they can perceive
    as well as
  • WHEN they can perceive it
  • HOW they can perceive it (i.e. the necessary prerequisites).


The necessity of consistency cannot be stressed enough. Once you have set the rules and laws for your world, don’t break them because they’re inconvenient in a particular scene.


Gravity does not stop just because we’d like to fly around a bit.
Ditto with whatever rules and laws you set as part of your fictional world.


Work around them.
Build the equivalent to hot-air balloons, gliders, jet-planes.
Or keep your characters longing to fly like birds (or dragons), repeatedly trying and failing to fly, making it their life’s work to learn how. And getting locked up by Devision 8 for trying to break Aeronotics Regulation 15.07 and infiltrating young minds with illegal ideas.


It all depends on your story.


That’s it for now.


Don’t give up.
Keep on writing.
Featured image: pixabay
Image source: Julia, pixabay 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s