This is going to be a bit of a free writing exercise. It occurs to me that when we write fiction, we are building fences for ourselves.
It occurs to me that with every word we write, we build a fence. To illustrate, let’s start with a title. I’ll pick on myself, and my book Will O’ the Wisp. Readers are going to expect that at some point in the story, it’s going to relate to a Will O’ the Wisp. Nothing is completely fenced in yet, and it could be a metaphorical thing someone is chasing. In my case it involved an actual Will O’ the Wisp.
On page one we will introduce a character. I introduced Patty Hall as a fifteen year old girl. I fenced myself into not making the story all about a man of any age. There can be male characters, and there were.
By the end of the first chapter, we knew Patty wore corrective leg braces, and the story was set in the 1970s.
This means a fence went up technologically. Patty couldn’t listen to an iPod, or use a cellular phone. She’s going to get grief over her leg braces. This can be real or imagined, but it needs to happen.
Every word we write helps fence in our story. We need to remember the fences we’ve already built as we get deeper into the story. If we establish a firm genre, like mystery, we probably can’t abandon that half way through and turn it into science fiction. There might be some ability to move from closely related genres, like mystery and suspense. The fence means it isn’t going to suddenly become a cute romance halfway through act 2.
In a similar fashion, if vampires burn up in the sunlight, they can’t suddenly start running around on a sunny beach.
There are some stories that cross genres, but that gets established early on. Star Wars is both fantasy and science fiction. There was a fence though, it didn’t suddenly become a comedy.
Readers expect certain things. We can surprise them, and hope we do. It still has to happen within the fences we built. This doesn’t prohibit the first zombie from showing up in Act 3. It means you have to build a fence that lets readers know there are zombies before they see one. This is foreshadowing.
I suppose if I want to keep pushing this idea, editing is moving the fences around to better enclose the parcel.
I really don’t know where I’m going with this, but I’ve always thought of writing like building fences. By the time I get to Act 3, I have my story almost completely fenced off. I’m just closing my parcel off in the denouement stage.
I warned you this was free writing. Does this make sense to anyone except me?