Monday, June 27, 2011

Be More Than Skin-Deep

A lot of ideas I get for stories come from wishful thinking and the what-if game. Today I was daydreaming about having time-traveling ability and using it to fix the problems of one's personal life.

Did you just have a huge argument? Go back and make sure to not make that instigating comment. Get pulled over? Go back and remember to leave your house earlier so you don't have to rush. Imagine how great your life could be if you could keep resetting and trying again. (It occurs to me now that it would be like living the world we create when we write, realistic, but with a nice sheen on everything.)

I wondered what a story like this would be like, and I quickly got bored. From what I had, it really only had one way to go. It would make for a perfect life at first, but then something would have to either nullify its effectiveness or make it too dangerous to use.

Most likely, the character would encounter some problem (probably a catastrophic one that resulted in a loved one's death or permanent disfigurement) and could not solve it. Every new timeline resulted in some form of death, disfigurement, or some other horrible outcome that befell others instead.

As a result, the main character would either allow the loved one to perish or heroically allow tragedy to befall himself (either sacrificing the time-traveling powers or his very life). Although there are a few possibilities for the specifics, the story ends up being predictable from start to end.

I was thinking about this and realized that the real problem is that it is skin-deep. There is no real soul, no dilemma. It's simply a matter of creating a cool power, then turning it into a curse for the sake of adding any drama.

An interesting story examines serious and complex issues. It doesn't hold opinions, but merely presents different viewpoints. And, quite often, stories show two people or groups that have their own problems, but are both related to the same idea.

People may not think of a woman with a terrible boyfriend as being the same as a woman in a horrible job, but an abusive relationship is an abusive relationship, and the ways one can handle them are very similar. If you write a story that has both of these aspects to it, you will probably be much further than skin-deep.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Funny you write about time travel. I've let a story fermenting in my head about a teleporter. I saw the movie Jumper, and I thought, "This is crap." Don't get me wrong the movie had fun elements like action, but it didn't expose how that specific power would effect the people who have it...

  3. I deleted my first post because I made a mistake, but then I reposted with another. ARGGGG.