Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Creating the Story

So we’re kicking things off here at WU with an exciting stable of contributors who’ll each focus on sci-fi, fantasy, or horror from the writer’s perspective. To get things started, we’re taking a peek at what gives us a passion for these mainstays of speculative fiction and what drives us to write stories in them.

For me, this could mean a look back many things. How the unreal became so real the night I first saw Star Wars in theaters at the ripe old age of four. Or how I couldn’t wait to get home from school each day to turn on the TV and be transported to Iscandar in Star Blazers or see the Fiery Phoenix in Battle of the Planets. How I’d shamelessly sink every quarter I could beg, borrow or steal into the slots of video games like Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Galaga.

So many quarters gone...
Movies, cartoons, games – when it came to science fiction, I consumed it all, condensing it down to a sugary pulp of imagination like cotton candy.

But it wasn’t until I got my hands on an unremarkable little paperback from my school library that I learned there could be more to it than just consuming these stories, these other worlds. That I might be able to create them myself...

The Third Planet from Altair was one of those old choose-your-own-adventure books.  You know the kind:

The Third Planet From Altair
If you decide to charge the aliens, laser guns ablaze, turn to page 63.   

If you decide to try for the peaceful solution you have a sneaking suspicion will get you killed anyway, turn to page 97.

As I paged through the book, flipping back and forth to find all the possible endings, trying not to die at the hands of evil aliens or maniacal robots,  I had the sense of making the narrative as I went along.  It was my story.  My world. I was creating it.

Later on, I found the same excitement - only amplified - in the game of Dungeons and Dragons. Sure, it was fun to play a character and romp around slaying goblins and gelatinous cubes. But I was always most at home in the Dungeon Master’s seat. My friends might say it was all a nerdy power trip. They might be right, but I also like to believe it was because there’s nothing quite like spending hours making up new worlds full of villains and perils, then watching the faces of the players as they experience your work, right there in front of you.

My old DM Guide.
Since then, I’ve come to realize my passion for the genre isn’t just about consuming the great stories others have written. Nor is it about putting words on a page or finding the perfect turn of phrase or poetic metaphor. It’s about creating - interesting characters, intricate plots, entire worlds. It’s about creating the story.


  1. Wow, Choose Your Own Adventure. My brother and I used to make those and force each other to read them. I remember having a whole lot of fun coming up with horrible ways to kill my characters, and getting bored with the survival pathways.

  2. You've got no clue how many of these I read. I even tried to make a bunch of my own :S Ah, good times.