A way with worlds: 41 - Playing God
by Steven Savage of Seventh Sanctum
Page 1 of 2
This is a more "warm
and fuzzy column" than some of my more technical ones. I
suppose I can break with tradition now and then. Everyone needs
"attitude" in worlds and concepts, but rarely attitudes
in authors. But there is one that I'm going to talk about and how
it relates to worldbuilding.
The attitude than an author
should "play god" in their worlds and stories.
Let's just say I think it's
a bad idea.
LET THERE BE SPITE:
To put it simply, to put it bluntly, taking the attitude that
you're a god in your world is a great way to wreck your creation
and your writing.
What do I mean by playing
god in your world?
- Deciding that the world
is there to serve a need of yours.
- Manipulating outcomes
to satisfy how you think things should be rather than how
you think they will turn out.
characters you don't like.
- Using stories to
"make a point" even when it doesn't fit what
I'm sure we've done this.
I'm sure we've seen it done. It's also a terrible thing to do to
your world and to yourself as a creative person, and it'll burn
your creativity and your worlds to ash if you let it.
One of the paradoxes of creativity is that, while we
think we have ideas, it seems the best ideas are ones that have
us. We all know those moments where something is just so
synchronized, just so right, we're amazed at what gets done.
We're usually frustrated as well when some of those moments can't
You can't control
The problem when you play
god is that you aren't being creative with your world and your
story - you're manipulating it, altering it, controlling it for
an agenda. It's really no different than forcing your body to
body to do things it cant, or trying to force a person to be
something they aren't. Like those things, it can backfire - a
body breaks down, a person strikes back.
We've had stories
disintegrate when we've been heavy-handed with them. We've tried
to grasp ideas only to find them flow through our fingers like
sand. Yet, ironically, people will gladly engage in large-scale
manipulation of detailed imaginative creations, trying to force
their will and biases on entire imaginative universes. We may
understand the need for a light touch on the small scale, but
miss it in the larger.
Playing god crushes what we
INSIDE AND OUTSIDE:
When we play god with our creations, we also make the
fatal mistake of putting ourselves outside of our creations. Our
creations become something to manipulate or control or to change.
They're not part of us, they're considered separate from us.
This is a deadly thing for
creativity, which works best when it can flow, like water or
blood. The more we try to control it, the less it can actually be
what it is. We stop dreaming and start manipulating. Control is
the antitheses of creativity.
I've read stories where the
writers play god. I can't think of a one where the story and
characters didn't eventually disintegrate (if they even started
out integration). It's as if some kind of soul in the work was
slowly running out, as if the initial charge of a battery, of the
initial creative burst, was running down under the burden of the
author manipulating things.
Playing god keeps us from
creating new things and cultivating the old.
THE OBVIOUSNESS OF
Finally, playing god has one important effect.
It's usually hideously
obvious and it annoys your readers.Next Page
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Steven Savage, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.