When I first read this question, I thought this could be fun to play with, but then it struck me as almost off-topic in terms of the usual focus of thinking about writing, being a writer, or the business of writing. The more I noodled it, the more my head began to spin.
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This is a sublimely provocative question and with full respect to the IWSG leadership team, I’m going to take creative license and morph the question slightly to give it a writing craft angle.
“If you could live in any book world, why would you choose to live in it?”
By extension, this means exploring what the author did to make it real enough, enticing enough, or evocative enough to drive an emotional desire for the reader to want to live there?
I’ve been spending the last few months trying to get back into a rhythm such that I can finish my first novel, and part of that journey has been to grow my writing craft skills. Reading other books in my genre as well as books on the writing craft and even one on the disciplines needed to be a professional writer.
Many of them talk about what it takes to grab your reader, infuse the need to read the next page, and give the reader an enjoyable experience. While these insights are nothing short of on target, they have also caused great angst for me. Reviewing my work, I can see it was all about telling the story of the events. This happened, then that happened, then this other thing happened,
With a few exceptions, I spent very little time evoking the world that my characters are living in. There is very little there for the reader to want to even consider living in my book’s world. What is crazy and frying my brain is that I feel that by the time I add in all the evocative descriptions needed and fill in the white space so that my characters exist someplace, the book will be three times as long.
Of all the book worlds I’ve visited, would I want to live in any of them? Consider the universes as created by George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry, Piers Anthony, and Philip K. Dick. Their worlds are deep, wide, highly descriptive, and full of sciences. I’ve often run into conversations online, or otherwise, where people were arguing about whether this or that device is realistic? Can you really have a dual-bladed light saber, does the science support it? The mere fact that people are discussing an item of fictional creation and arguing its merit, with assumed authority no less, drives to the root of creating a believable experience for the reader. I can only hope that I can create worlds powerful enough to suspend reality and infuse readers’ investment in my worlds to generate similar discussions.
Are any of these worlds interesting enough to actually entertain living in? In and of themselves, a solid maybe. But then I think, do I want to just live in those worlds, or would I want to live and participate in the character’s world. If I were to choose any of these authors’ worlds, I would want to live in their lead’s worlds. Hang out with them, help them with their struggles, and live the adventures alongside them. I don’t think I would find any value in just being in the book’s universe but would need to be in the book’s character’s universe. The depth of a character, in my view, can make or break the perception of their world.
I think, for my own novel, that I believe my characters have some solid depth and that I am giving them some substance, real personality, and solid realism. That they are people that I would like to hang out with and adventure alongside. As I write their scenes, I see the scenes in my mind’s eye. I need to have the discipline to evoke those scenes so that my readers see them too.
At the end of the day, I can’t imagine living in any of the worlds described in any of the books I’ve read. Great places to visit, but I enjoy my world too much, I’m comfortable with its struggles, its quirks, oddities, and insanity. There is no place like home.
Besides, with my luck, I would end up with a red shirt in Mr. Roddenberry’s universe, and my writing career (and life) would be over before the middle of Act II.