Rules Are Rules: Setting Up Your Fantasy or SF World

On Mother’s Day we saw an independent film. A friend described it to me as non-gross post-apocalyptic story. Gotcha.  Science fiction. Post-apocalypse.

After watching it, I looked up the description.  “A young couple wake up one morning to discover every person on Earth has disappeared. The two must struggle to survive while unravelling what forces are at work.”  First things first, be careful when you write your description.  If every person disappears that either means that a young couple is no longer there and will not be waking up or they are not human.

I don’t think that was the case but please.  I know you don’t want to reveal all in your description but please make sure it is accurate.

The tough thing about writing science fiction and fantasy is that your story world has got to have rules.  Has. Got. To. Have. Rules.  I can’t emphasize that enough.

If everyone but one specific couple disappears, there has got to be a reason.  You can’t do it just to be spooky or strange.  You can’t do it just to trap them together and see how they play out as a couple.  That’s what desert islands are for.  Nope.  There has got to be a reason.

And if they find someone else once, we are going to expect it to happen again.  Why?  Because you’ve set it up as possible.  And it might provide a clue as to how and why everyone else vanished.

My husband says that it is really funny that someone as legalistic as I am loves fantasy and science fiction.  Loves them.  I really do.  But it also means that I expect you the author/director/goof with a camera to follow your own rules.

These rules are a contract with your reader/viewer.  If you violate these rules whenever it suits you, they lose all meaning.

You don’t have to reveal all to the reader.  In fact the author should always know many things that are never stated in the story.  But the author still has to know.  Otherwise things seem random and more than a little pointless.  Kind of like wearing a designer outfit when you are the only person left on earth.