by Kathleen Bradean
In science news: subatomic particles have an odd habit of seeming to be in two places at once, or, disappearing then reappearing. A few scientists have guessed that this means there might be parallel universes that those particles travel through. Imagine finding a strange little kittenish thing and bending down to pet it, only to find that it’s the dangling lure attached to an angler fish the size of a garbage truck that we can’t see because it’s sitting in a fourth dimension that we can’t perceive. Or, if you prefer, imagine the particles are Alice going through the Looking Glass, then popping back into the parlor nanoseconds later, only not in the exact same place she left it.
Writers and readers don’t need to be told that parallel worlds exist. The universe inside a story isn’t anything like this one. That scene where you stepped in gum and spent five minutes trying to get it off the sole of your shoe with flimsy napkins? Gone.
The tedium of traffic? That happened between scenes, as you magically time traveled to the next interesting thing.
Just a regular old day where nothing spectacular happened – good or bad – but filled with so much adulting that you surrendered to the couch, snacks, and mindless tv once you got home? Yeah. Never happened. And yet, somehow, miraculously, there’s food in the fridge, gas in your car, clean clothes in your closet, and if there isn’t, it’s a plot device.
People might complain that it isn’t realistic to skip all the inbetween stuff, but real life can be so overwhelmingly dull that we try to escape it by… making up stories. Honor that by leaving out most of the moments that don’t move your story forward. A touch or two of real life in a tale is a good idea, but use it sparingly for greater effect.
As Lizabet touched on in her article on dialog, people don’t talk in logical, linear sentences. Their words wander all over the place, loop around, and waste a good deal of time. You don’t want to write dialog the way people actually speak but rather want to give the impression of reality. That’s true of all your story, from the meet to the seduction, through the sex, to the end. Get down to the essence of reality but treat it like a strong spice that can easily overpower everything. Give your readers a mirror to step through and a parallel universe that will leave them pleasantly mussed before they return to this one.
And whatever you do, don’t let them pet the quantum kitten.