Saturday, 23 August 2014

...And the Kitchen Sink

I wound up reading some comics that were a spinoff from a popular fantasy show that shall remain nameless. I had avoided this for some time but I finally checked out a couple of digital copies. I didn't make it to the end of them alas. It wasn't the characterization or dialogue that dismayed me; it was the sheer sensory assault of the plot. In addition to the original fantasy premise the comics had apparently thrown James Bond(the OTT Roger Moore era Bond), Star Wars, Back to the Future, and a large measure of soap opera. It had everything bar the eponymous kitchen appliance, and then as the title says chucked that in as well.
I've written fan fiction based on TV shows in the past and I know that one of the pleasures of it is being able to open out the universe. On the page you have more time to flesh out characters and you don't have to worry about the cost of effects, location shooting, and a huge cast. This of course can also apply with your own original works; you start off with a plot that's compact and a handful of characters and as you write the plot opens out and you start having to create flow charts to keep track of the characters.
This is no bad thing of course but the problem comes when, as with the comic, more and more ideas just get thrown in without any consideration for the effect on the reader. The first thing that happens is the author starts to break the rules of their own fictional universe; a character suddenly acquires telekinesis or the power to fly where there had never even been a hint such an outcome was possible, and then character number two suddenly becomes a vampire to offset the powers of character number one and then character three becomes a time traveling cyborg because now they look a bit bland, and so on and so on until you have a mad melee of plot elements all competing with one another for the reader’s attention.
In the end this will destroy the readers suspension of disbelief and involvement with the characters, they spend their time wondering things like, 'if the character used X to get out of a situation on page 100 why don't they use it to get out of the similar situation on page 200?' instead of getting involved in the intricacies of the plot.

Ideas are a wonderful thing but you do need to spread them out.