Friday, July 20, 2012

The story is alive ...

I'm a big fan of Sci-fi or SFF or Speculative Fiction or whatever you want to call stories that have spaceships, and travel between the stars, or between time, and aliens, or not ....

And I've had the chance to go a see Supanova in Sydney a couple of times, and once even went to a Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas.

And it's always struck me, how engaged the fans of that genre are. They love their stories. They love their worlds. They love their characters.

They'll cosplay at conventions

Batman Cosplay at Supanova Sydney 2011,  via The Bat Blog

They'll write fan fiction or original fiction, set within the universes created.

They are not passive consumers.

If studio executives try and stop their stories, they'll agitate to get them back.

And even when the stories end, they'll remember them, returning to them again and again, and keep writing them, building on the mythology, adding layers to characters.

This particular quality of active engagement was summed up - beautifully - by Joss Whedon at ComiCon when he was reunited with many of the cast members of Firefly. They were in a room packed with fans of the show - a show that has been off air for ten years.

When asked what the fans of the show mean to the creator of the show Whedon became emotional, the cast and audience became emotional, and there was a standing ovation before a word could be said.

What Whedon then said was this:

“When you come out of a great movie, you feel like you’re in that world. When you’re telling a story, you’re trying to connect to people in a particular way. It’s about inviting them into a world. The way you’ve inhabited this world, this universe, you have become part of it. When I see you guys, I don’t think the show is off the air. I think there’s spaceships and horses — the story is alive.”
It's that element of the story being "alive" that is the key.

When you're writing, it's not until that moment that the story feels alive, that the characters start to live and begin to say and do things that feel autonomous, rather than obeying the demands of some vague plot you've got knocking around in your skull, but when they suddenly start creating plot by actually being alive - yeah, that! That's when the writing starts to click, when the excitement starts to bubble, when the world you've created and the imaginary friends you've peopled it with, all start to live inside you.

That's when you start to carry the world of the book with you wherever you go, whatever you're doing.

It's what you hope you're creating for anyone who reads your words.

As a reader the same thing happens when I close a book, and the characters follow me, and I can imagine them acting and thinking and behaving and responding to events - when that happens I know that I have been captured by the writer and their world.

For those moments we cross over. As a reader we inhabit the world of the writer. As a writer we inhabit the world of imagination. And we connect with each other through worlds made of words.

David Lodge, in Consciousness and The Novel put it well:

"The novel is arguably man's most successful effort to describe the experience of individual human beings moving through space and time."
It's an intimate miracle really.

Here's a video of the whole panel ComiCon Firefly panel.

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