Remembering I’m God When Writing

Often, I forget that I’m God. Don’t call the authorities — when writing, I mean. I write fictional stories, and whether it’s for screen or page the story’s universe is my creation. I’m its alpha and omega. Why some people don’t write is beyond me — what a rush.

I must not be an omniscient god, or I’d always I’d remember who I am.

Usually when I conceptualize a story I have real settings in mind. Sometimes I fall into the trap of trying to get every detail real-life correct. Is the sidewalk brick or cement? If the action is supposed to be unobserved is there a house in the wrong place? An inconvenient street light? Is there a bush that grows out of control so drivers can’t see around the corner when they stop? And when they inch forward, are they inching past a stop sign or a light?

In a script I’m finishing up now, two main characters jump into a large canal and get sucked into a drainage pipe. Could I over-complicate that? Sure! I spent hours on Google Maps satellite view looking for the right canal with the right drainage pipe, intending to route the characters’ road trip so this scene could be accurate — before I realized, and sat back, and laughed at myself.

Maybe your mind has the same trap door, and like me you let yourself dangle a while before you think to write a floor beneath you. Or a luxury cruise ship — yeah!

Yeah — it’s my world! The beauty of being the writer is if I want a drainage pipe, all I have to do is put it there — wherever it needs to be, just in time to suck in two intrepid high schoolers. When writing a script I don’t have to worry about budgets or locations to some extent, and with prose I have carte blanche. The only real constraints are what the story requires, and whether it’s believable.

Which is quite a different thing from realistic — and from real.

My brain is at ease with the constraints of the real world — at least familiar — and this has an impact on my storytelling. It’s as if I’m comfortable writing the black and white scenes in The Wizard of Oz, or the London scenes in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but can’t quite make the leap to Oz or Narnia. There’s always a stop sign in the way, or a canal that’s too wide.

That old screenwriters’ remedy is probably the answer here — read more, watch more, write more. There’s a formulation for prose writers, too, but I stick to the screenwriters’ one because I like to watch movies. Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts or solutions!

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