Rakers Week 5 – Taking Leaps

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One of the crazy beautiful things about writing fiction is that you can literally go anywhere with your words. It’s something movies, paintings, and most other forms of art can’t do. There’s nothing stopping you from writing a novel about a talking plant, or a series of mysteries as solved through the eyes of a particularly swarthy squirrel. You can take your characters to the Moon or Dimension Z. Flip gravity on its head or remove it entirely.

The challenge, of course, is taking the bizarre ideas that come to mind and placing a plausible story around them. Characters that still resemble, to some degree, humanity. Or, at least, have a system of values that allows us as readers to go with them to wherever the author chooses to take us. Rakers, at a certain point, takes a leap. It’s a challenging moment that twists the novel around and changes the stakes for the characters by turning the world and reality they know and understand into something else entirely. As the writer, my task is to build up a cast deserving enough of your attention that you’re willing to follow the story through those moments that, taken apart from themselves, would have you wondering… what?

Take a look at Men In Black. Assuming you haven’t seen any trailers and walked into the movie cold without any idea of what was coming (a far-fetched setup, but stick with me) – there’s a scene with Will Smith’s character chasing down a fleeing man who starts doing some physically impossible stunts. Still, they’re not so implausible that you couldn’t imagine, somehow, someone being able to pull them off. Yet, that niggling bit of “this isn’t entirely real” plays about in the back of our minds, so when the man’s alien origins are revealed, we’re not so shocked. Many other parts of Men in Black, from the font choices, soundtrack, and other things, convey the information that this isn’t a normal cop movie and all of those set us up to play along with the shift when it happens. We’re willing to leave the world of ordinary police work behind and jump in with the aliens and their coffee obsessions.

Point being, getting readers to follow you along into the most feverish of your fever dreams takes real effort. It does, of course, come with a side benefit – odds are, if you put in the work, if you add the flourishes and asides to add subtle expectations to make your readers believe in your setting, your characters will too. And when you have a career cop buying into the idea of a body-stealing cockroach menacing his home planet, then you’ve got a fun story on your hands.