Writing the Impossible

When I fell in love with the idea of writing, it was after reading my favorite novel of all time. I thought, “I want to write stories like that,” not realizing how big my dream really was.

You see, when I meet new authors, I almost always find that they hope to write great works, monumental novels. When you think about the books that you love, you’ll probably realize that they’re considered the very best of their kind. No one wants to write a novel that anyone could write.

So as authors, we often face challenges. For example, this morning a writer asked, “I have a story that I’m working on. I’m writing it in third-person, with a very tight focus on the character’s point of view, and I want to know, is it possible to hide information from the reader and reveal it in the end? For example, what if I have a character who isn’t who he says that he is, but reveal his true identity at the end?”

My very first thought was, “No, that’s not really possible. If you’re deep into the protagonist’s mind, if we as readers know what he is thinking, then it will feel like a cheat if you pull out something big.”

I see a lot of writers who try this particular cheat, and it never works.

But I’ve learned that just about any time that you think that something is impossible to do, in a day or so you’ll notice that someone else has figured a way to work around it.

So, while driving to the store I thought of some ways around it.

Here are some workarounds:

  1. Maybe the protagonist doesn’t know who he is. Maybe in your science fiction universe, identities are like software that you download, and he doesn’t learn who he truly is until he downloads himself in the end.
  2. Or perhaps this character is brain damaged due to injury or illness and literally forgets who he really is.
  3. Or perhaps in the course of a fantasy story, a character literally transforms into a new person.
  4. Perhaps you could rewrite the story from another person’s point of view, so that the new main character discovers, for example, that their friend/work partner/spouse isn’t who they say that they are.
  5. Take the story out of close POV and try writing it from the narrator’s POV.

In short, there are ways to do it. None of the above would be easy, and maybe none is to your liking. In fact, in most cases, it would probably wind up being a very different kind of story from what you intended. That’s all right. I’ve found that some of my best effects have been created when I push myself to think outside the box.

What’s important is that you push yourself to work outside the box. It you’re going to create “novel” novels, write monumental stories, it often requires you to figure out how to do things that others wouldn’t even attempt.

In 2006, Stephen Kotowych won the Writers of the Future grand prize award for his story “Saturn in G Minor”. Now Stephen has released a collection of his stories, including his WotF winning piece, called Seven Against Tomorrow. I hope you’ll check out his anthology and consider purchasing it!

Also, don’t forget to register for my Casting Your Novel Master Class! Just a couple spots open now …

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