Big Wide World

“What was with Dom’s dad, anyway?”

I am very similar to both of my brothers, although in different ways for different brothers. Brad, writer of My Gray Matter, is eerily similar to how I was when I was his age, a whopping 13 years ago (we’ve now reached the “I feel old” portion of the blog). With Jake, who finds himself Inspired by Random (and sometimes truly random), the similarities are many, but not always as predictable. One of the points of disagreement between us made itself apparent after we had gone to see the movie Inception.

For those of you who have not seen the movie: it came out like three years ago; what are you doing with your life? (Just kidding. No major spoilers coming up). The main character, Dom, makes a living by breaking into people’s minds through their dreams and stealing valuable information from their subconscious. Part way through the movie we meet Dom’s father, played by the awesome Michael Caine, and it is stated that he is the one that taught Dom his trade. Dom’s father introduces a new main character into the story and then does not impact the plot significantly for the rest of the movie.

I tend to be of the opinion that the “story world” in which a particular story takes place should always be bigger than the story that is being told. It adds realism, because in real life, the world is always bigger than any one person or group’s individual story. That big world has a variety of influences over those stories, adding depth and complexity. (Some might argue that any influence, no matter how small, becomes a part of the individual or group’s story, but that’s a little meta for the purposes of this discussion, and as the regular readers know, I never do that sort of thing around here. I mean seriously,who does that? What, are you just writing about writing)?

So for me, the implication of a complex back story, even though I did not get to have it explained to me, is a huge boon. It makes the characters of Dom and Ariadne that much more realistic, because they have had histories with this other character that I don’t know.

When we got back to the house afterward, we discussed the movie. I led with my usual “it was fun,” and Jake said, “What was with Dom’s dad?” Jake tends to be of the opinion that if you’re going to introduce a character that has an interesting backstory, you should probably spend some time delivering that backstory (if there is a gun on the wall in act one, it should be fired in act two, and that sort of thing). So for Jake, the fact that we don’t know more about Dom’s dad is a serious omission from the plot. Which I sort of get. I’m mostly just unhappy there isn’t a sequel, or a graphic novel, or an MMORPG in which more of the (rich and interesting) story world can be revealed. But the fact that that story world was established as being so rich (and interesting, and sequel bearing — you hear that, Chris Nolan?) in one movie is pretty impressive, and I would argue that it was made so with those little tidbits that hint at a larger, more complex world than we were shown.

Those tidbits also give rise to fanfiction, though, which I do not like at all. So maybe Jake is right.

Last week I wrote a little bit about the process I used when I was still writing fiction (which, by the way, I’ve been having the inclination to try again). A few times, especially when writing sci-fi, I tried to imagine the world in which the story would take place in as much detail as I could. I have notebooks with web diagrams and computer folders containing outlines and mindmaps of many of the “story worlds” I’ve played around with in the past. As this is the blog of an aspiring writer and not a washed up science fiction novelist, you can imagine how they’ve turned out.

For the past few months, I’ve been talking a lot about how I don’t think that fiction is really “my thing” when it comes to writing. I do have this persistent itch, though. It’s definitely not “big idea” stuff yet — I’m still going to stick primarily with the non-fiction stuff as my primary project. But I think it’s time to try again.


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