A land forged from the fires of strife, blood of heroes, and touch of the gods.
Where deeds of great valor, vile evils, and blazing passions intertwine
to shape the course of elven and human history within.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Equal and Opposite

Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps the finest scientist and physicist who ever lived, explained, in simple terms, many of the basic ways the world works.  Newton's Three Laws of Motion are well known to any high school science student, and most people have at least heard his name in passing.  Look him up, sometime; his story is pretty interesting.
Of all Newton's Laws, the one most interesting to me as a writer is his Third Law of Motion which states very eloquently "For every Action there is an Equal and Opposite Reaction". And we see this every day; two football players colliding at midfield; the bat contacting a fastball and sending it over the fence; a tiny butterfly landing on a flower, and the flower gently swaying with the added weight.  The only variable in this Law is the mass of the objects involved; this is where the "equal" part may not seem so "equal" but it is based on Newton's Second Law which states "the strength of the force equals the mass of the object times the resulting acceleration"; this is what determines the extent of the difference between the effects upon the objects.
Now about this time you're wondering "what the heck does this have to do with writing????"  OK, I'll tell you.
In the world of literature, and in the real world itself, we often see actions, and reactions that are wholly out of proportion to the initial event.  Riots in the streets over comments made about certain writings or artwork; the same over lifestyles of people who are total strangers and have no bearing on the rioters' lives; irate sports fans burning, looting, and sometimes even harming other fans because their team lost, or simply that the other fan wears a different logo jacket.  Such things are so wide-spread and occur so often, they, unfortunately, come to be expected.
So here we are in a fictional world, dropped there by the author, caught up in the "whirlwind" of adventure, mystery, intrigue, emotion, comedy/etc, watching all this take place around us.  And what do we see?  In my world, it's pretty simple (well... sometimes).  The Drow are on the march, besieging Fortress Telveperen, or the Overlord is scheming to reclaim his city, all the while playing along with our heroes, or the Shadow Horde seeks vengeance for whatever-the-heck they think happened thirty years ago.  And the reaction?  
One thing writers MUST learn in any story; if you don't show a reaction, your story will suffer.  Now sometimes, the reaction is to do nothing; that's right, nothing.  Why?  Because if it's in the character's character (pardon the pun), that's what must happen.  Now that doesn't mean there won't be a following reaction from the original perpetrator; and in fact, any "bad guy" knows when his "goody-two-shoes" opponent doesn't react, it's time to go for the throat.  
So do we continue with a never-ending succession of attack/reprisal/attack again?  Not necessarily.  But the reaction, in my mind, is far more interesting to write than the action itself.  Example:
The prologue of Book Two, Dark Way of Anger, tells of the Purge against Elvenkind in Ardwel; a twenty-five year period during which the City-State of Vichelli proceeded to systematically try to wipe the elves from Ardwel.  Readers have clamored for this story since I first wrote the prologue (don't worry, I'll get to it eventually).  Dark Way of Anger didn't deal with the Purge, but the events and the struggle against it during its final years.  The reaction, so to speak, and not only the reaction of fighting, but of trying to find a solution to it and events that were caused by it, to end it forever, that it would never come again.
I've seen a lot of stories written about the Action; the struggle, the fight, the war, the battle, the political maneuvering, the event itself.  But to me, as a writer, I find the emotional center of my stories most often deals with the Reaction, and how my characters deal not only with the struggle against the Evil, but how they cope with the aftermath.  This, to me, is as the veteran returning from the war, and where the real heart of a tale lies.  
How we deal with the "whirlwind" of life, moving against the inertia of events as they threaten to carry us away, keeping our cool, planning our strategy, and working our plan, is how we survive; not only in stories, but in real life.
Happy Holidays, everyone.  
Blessings on your House, and may Happiness follow you a thousand years.


Kristin McTiernan said...

I think that is the sign of a really great writer. Because as an observer if you just look at the action and then the reaction as separate events, the observer is left to make their own judgements about the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of said reaction. But as a writer, you take your reader along the path and show them what is in the character's heart, allowing the reader to empathize. These aren't just events, these are bits of people's lives, people you make your reader care about. Keep up the good fight Denny :)

Dennis Young said...

Thanks Kristin. I will always examine the Reaction, immerse the reader in it, as the characters find their way beyond it. And even when it is the Action that takes center-stage (and I had one of those in Book Three, Secrets of the Second Sun), it's the Reaction, once again, that is most important to the story; memories of victory tinged with sacrifice, hope with trepidation, faith with loss of love for the greater good.