Meta Monday 6: If it Exists

090901_Statuephoto by hans

This week’s glimmer of wisdom comes from fantasy author Brandon Sanderson. His quote is from an interview with Fantasy blogging’s own Lord Ruler Aidan Moher.

“In my opinion a good book is a balance be-tween character, setting, and plot with character being the most important of the three. You can have the coolest magic system in the world, but if readers don’t care about the characters who are using that magic system, the book won’t be very fun to read.”

Brandon Sanderson is renowned for his wholly unique and calculated fantasy worlds and magic systems. But at its core, his worlds are only the stage, magic only the props of his stories. Though they are very well-thought-out, he does not allow them to conquer his story. He follows the same school of thought as many of the great speculative writers: well if this exists in my world, then what repercussions does that bring?

Take one of many simple details in Sanderson’s Mistborn: ashfalls. An amateur might use the constant falling of ash from the sky simply to create a mood. But Sanderson takes that extra step of greatness. The falling of ash affects culture: status is easily measured by how clean your clothes, home and person are, since keeping anything clean in a world of the constant falling ash is expensive and time consuming. It affects the environment: no plants flourish in a world where ash falls instead of rain. People don’t understand the concept of plants being green. It affects the hopes and dreams of society: the slave-class feel even more hopelessly trapped by this ash. The great hero of ancient prophecy instead became the most unimaginable tyrant who has drained all hope from his average citizens, and the ashfall is a constant reminder of this.

In any case, bear this tip in mind creative writers. Instead of introducing a thousand variables into your speculative universe, introduce just a few, but find the thousand ways these few variables change the way your world works from our own.

Keep writing, keep reading, keep loving.

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