Bubble Poppers And What-Iffers

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020-05-22 12:00:00 No comments

My most common piece of advice to other writers, so common it ought to be getting tiresome for all six of you to hear this, is "Read outside of your bubble." If you write SF, make a specific effort to read things that are not SF. Ditto fantasy, ditto crime fiction, thrillers, whatever. Likewise, whatever fiction happens to be your jam, make an effort to read nonfiction, too.

The big lesson here isn't just to broaden your horizons, although that's always a nice benefit. The other big reason you want to read widely and out of your bubble is to have a better idea of what you might find when you say "what if we do this?" with your work.

What with Fall Of The Hammer more or less done and just waiting for some touch-up work, I'm turning now to a new project, one still very much in the early stages. Shaped-up enough that the basic idea and characters are graspable, but still protean enough to inspire dozens of unanswered questions about how things work in this setting.

This is where the out-of-the-bubble what-iffery comes in handy. Knowing what else the rest of the world holds makes it easier to figure out what your world can hold. Maybe that's nothing more than a pretentious way of saying, with experience comes options, but it's true: the more you have to draw on, the more options you'll have for how things can be built.

The reason I bring this up in the context of what-iffery is because to my mind the what-iffing stage of building a story is what separates an only-okay one from a good or even great one.

People have described fiction as being the process of creating a character, than sticking them up a tree, throwing rocks and them, and seeing what they do. The same goes for the worldbuilding too: take your world and throw rocks at it and see how it responds. Bend it over your knee and see where it breaks. Then once that happens, draw on all the things outside of not only your story but outside its milieu too, to figure out what's next. The more you have to drawn on, the more ways forward you have from how things break.

The book I've just started (sorry, no title yet) demands that I reach outside of my bubble more aggressively than anything else I've done yet. Only Flight Of The Vajra demanded this much of me, and even with that one I mostly cheated. This time 'round, for what I have in mind, I have to up my game to the point where I need a new game room. Wouldn't have it any other way, really.

Tags: creativity research storytelling