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We All Float Down Here, Georgie…

Disorderly Misconduct

Just how much creative license can one person take before the reality police pull them over for disorderly conduct?

I was emailing Barb Caffrey earlier about some military terminology and what you can get away with when I realized that, by and large, the majority of scifi writers get crucified whenever their math is incorrect. Or worse still, they write with a military slant and they screw up the rank structure. Or the worst crime of all: have a magic FTL drive without explaining how it works.

On the flip side of things, ever ask a fantasy writer how magic works? They’ll look at you kind of funny and mutter “It just does, okay?”

Hmph. I smell a double standard here but then, I tend to treat hard science fiction fans with a lot more respect. Am I biased, all things considering? Maybe a little.

I think I touched on this a while back, but just how far does suspension of disbelief go before the cops pull you over?

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4 responses to “Disorderly Misconduct

  1. RD Carter September 29, 2010 at 12:39 AM

    In my critique group, I like to tell my partners that as long as the writing is solid and the motivations behind the action are linear, meaning people cross the street to get to the other side and not just because the writer needed some extra words, then it’s all good. I believe whatever the writer tells me. If you say the sky is green, then fine it’s green and then what happened…

    The only no-go for me is deus ex machina without any plot hints…you will get a nasty dissatisfied reader letter from me for that one…

    • warpcordova September 29, 2010 at 2:16 PM

      That’s a thought… Of course, I’m slightly worried that when I talk about something one of my readers may have a degree about, I’ll get an email about just how royally I screwed a particular sequence up.

      It’s why there’s a disclaimer in the front of the book. Tells people that I made mistakes and they’re my fault, not the tech advisor.

  2. Barb Caffrey September 30, 2010 at 5:23 AM

    I like the disclaimers, too, Jason. They exonerate anyone who helped us, and lay the blame squarely on the writer, him/herself. 😉

    At any rate, I think fantasy magic needs to have some sort of solid basis for it. It needs to take energy to cast a spell, for example — it shouldn’t be easy and it surely shouldn’t be unlimited. And preferably spells should work the same way for everyone unless the particular mage in question is a maverick (does his magic differently than most) or is an Adept (Adepts usually have idiosyncratic ways of doing things and have, in general, far more power than the lesser magicians, though they can still be beaten if they’re stupid or careless).

    I agree with RD that _deus ex machina_ endings (or plot twists) should be strictly _avoided_. (Can’t stand ’em, myself, unless done for comic effect. And even then, I usually don’t like ’em and will go out of my way to avoid writing ’em.)

    • warpcordova September 30, 2010 at 9:10 AM

      Agreed, Barb. One of the things that annoys me about an unnamed movie director **coughShyamalancough** is the unending plot twists at the end. One day he’s going to not have a plot twist in a halfway decent movie (Dude, trees? TREES!?!) and people are going to say “Well, that’s a twist…”.

      I think Jim Butcher has reasonable magic. I’ve seen more and more authors saying magic drains energy from the person and whatnot, which is fine. But then again, I actually like how Weis and Hickman explained magic in Dragonlance and how it came to be. That makes sense in a world where gods are active, and at the same time uses the physical aspects of how draining magic can be.

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