Hi Gang. Craig with you again today, and I have an idea for three different, but related topics. These are extras to the writing game, so I’m bringing them to you as part of my Expansion Pack posts.
We’ll have a post on Canon, One Upmanship, and Prequels. Let’s spin the dial and we land upon… Canon.
No matter how you plan your stories, in your head, on a storyboard, or a detailed plot, the minute you start writing, you’re actually building fences. They’re present, even if you don’t realize it. Your job is to live within the fences you’ve built.
In a simple explanation, you can’t have your character suffering from the long term effect of a car crash, then decide it would be cooler to have him be a disabled veteran in chapter seven. The only way to do this is to go back and change the earlier chapters to keep with canon.
Unfortunately, this kind of problem isn’t usually that simple. It becomes particularly maddening when you write a series. The longer it gets, the more fences you’re going to have built. Readers are pretty smart, and you’re not going to pull the wool over their eyes, and if they’re fans they’re even sharper.
Let’s pick on Star Wars like I so often do. Anakin Skywalker is the strongest person with The Force there is, and likely ever will be. In a reflection of the virgin birth, he was conceived by The Force itself. When he becomes Darth Vader, it makes for a wonderful antagonist.
Somewhere in the original trilogy we get a sense those who are Force sensitive can detect others. Luke even says, “I shouldn’t have come. I’m jeopardizing the mission.” Meaning Darth Vader could detect him from quite some distance across space.
In The Mandalorian, baby Yoda plops down on some kind of mystical broadcasting site to search for the Jedi to come train him. He and the Mandalorian then traveled a couple billion miles across space. Somehow, Luke Skywalker flies directly to him to take him for training. The Force is powerful stuff indeed.
In the new Obi-Wan Kenobi series, Darth Vader (Virgin birth, uber powerful) winds up standing less than 100 feet from his own daughter who is also force sensitive, but he doesn’t even detect her. I’m feeling a break from canon here.
You can’t just toss aside something you’ve built because the plot demands it. It might be convenient for you, but readers could pick up on it. Fans will for sure, and you want fans.
If you haven’t published your work, no problem, you can back up and edit. If you have published part of your series, you may have to take a beer day or three and think your way through this story problem. I have faith in you, and sometimes it takes a while to find a solution.
Stories about time travel are rife with this kind of thing. When everything goes wrong, why not just set the clock once more then try it again? This is often the place when brand new rules come into play, like only being able to visit that timeline once. It’s jarring to be that deep into a story, then learn a major rule that didn’t seem pertinent in earlier chapters.
Hermione Granger owns a time-turner. She and Harry Potter use it to keep Sirius Black out of wizard prison, and save the hippogriff. Tons of fun. (This is where my posts start blending together, but I’ll try to stick with canon today. There are similarities to the upcoming post on One Upmanship.)
Since this wonderful device exists, why didn’t they use it every time Voldemort made advances in the larger plot? Might have saved Dumbledore, one of the Weasley twins, Professor Lupin, etc.
Time to wrap this one up. Don’t be afraid to build those fences as you write. Just be prepared to live within the boundaries you established in your world.
Talk to me in the comments. If I can remember, I’ll include back links when I post the other two, because they all relate in some small way.