Immutable Laws


Nothing yanks me out of a story faster than an established, supposedly immutable law being broken.

While a bumble bee’s ability to fly might appear to break the laws of physics, thanks to modern-day photography and advances in the understanding of the laws of physics, we know the structure of the bumble bee’s wings make it possible for the ungainly appearing insect to fly.

Over Christmas last year, I spent a great evening playing story cubes with my five year old nephew and his sister. We rolled the cubes to tell our part of the story.  What developed was magical. My sister-in-law and I also taught story telling basics.  The five year old loved to start his segment of the story with ‘SUDDENLY…’ and he would change the entire tale.  Nothing like a five-year old using the tried and abused Deus ex machina. Seriously, bowling balls that fell from the sky and turned into frogs? Everyone knows that explosive frogs hop.

The weird, wild, and fantastic can exist in a story.  Using the weird, wild, and fantastic to resolve a corner the creator has painted themselves into is annoying.  There are rules for all worlds. A savvy writer knows them and applies them with precision and care.  Yes, can there be leaps? Sure, but they can’t shatter the rules of the world we’ve transported the reader to.

Arthur C. Clarke said it best in his three laws:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Be fanciful and fantastic in your writing. Have floating islands and waterfalls that flow against gravity, just be consistent and have an explanation ready when you have to break a rule (or two).


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