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When a story feels too much like a story

damehelsing at 12:00AM, Nov. 28, 2021

~Today we have a guest article from Andreas_Helixfinger! Enjoy the read!~

Hey everyone!

It’s you’re one vocal swedish guy on the the Duck Webcomics Andreas Helixfinger. I decided to tune in and do one of these sunday articles after discovering this smaller Youtube channel called TheBurgerkrieg, where the vlogger who is himself a self-published author, brought up something interesting in one of his videos. He was talking about Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy novel series Mistborn. He was praising the series for being a really good, really, really well written series of books.

But he also brought up an interesting conundrum of a problem he had with the series, and it’s that same little conundrum that I thought would be an intersting topic to bring up here before you, my fellow storytellers and storyreaders. The problem he had with the series happened to be that it was TOO well written.

So tightly and intricately well written to the point that the story–felt TOO much—like a story.

His rant on the subject in the video goes like this. I quote:

”The world building is so interesting, so high-concept, well thought out. There is no baggage to it. Everything that gets introduced to the story, every element of world building however minor, plays into the story at large. In fact the world building is so interwoven with the story that you cannot tear the two apart. This entirely original world that Sanderson has created exists solely to serve the story."

He continues:

”As a writer I find it of course immensily interesting to see the amount of skill and craftsmanship that went into making these. This story beats ”tick” like clockwork. But that’s just what it is. It’s a ship in a bottle. It’s a gorgeous snowglobe that ultimately is self-contained and serves the sole purpose of justifying its own aesthetics. And as a result it doesn’t feel real to me. I don’t at any point think that there is a real place out there that could be Mistbornia that lives and breaths and has its own little things that happen in it all of the time. The entire world during the process of reading the series felt like a set.”

End of quote.

Now, I have personally never read Mistborn so I cannot confirm if the books really are written that way or not. I’m honestly quite a lousy reader which I’ll hopefully fix in the near future. But I find the vlogger’s take on the subject fascinating, be it out of context or not, and I do suspect that the conundrum being brought up may be something worth thinking about in all things epic fiction.

As a writer myself who’s been struggling for a long, long, long time to take apart this near inconceivable hodgpepodge of ideas and inspirations, seperate it into different individual stories and then weave it all back together into a patchwork of lore and worldbuilding assets that makes up some kind of a resemblance of a grand, epic, fictional universe –

(the sound of Andreas rambling out of breath and inhaling loudly)

–I’ve been struggling with questions like:
”how much do I need to refine things?”
”How tightly do I need to weave my worldbuilding stuff into the stories themselves to make it all as self-contained as possible?”

I figured for quite a while that things needed to be tightly knit and relevant to the narrative at hand
in order for my stories to make sense, and be as comprehensible as could be. But at some point in
the process I just kind of gave up on trying to micromanage everything to perfection and sort of just
left a bunch of things loose, figuring that things was pretty much as refined as they were ever going
to get.

And watching this video made me realize that maybe that was the right thing for me to do. Maybe
what is going to make my universe feel alive and feel like an actual place, where a lot of things just
happens because they do, is the fact that every single aspect of it isn’t relegated to a specific
purpose. Maybe making every single aspect so would make it too much the same as how pieces of
machinery are made to carry out specific functions inside an engine, or closer to how the vlogger
described it, how props are made and used for a performance on a theatre stage.

Maybe a work of fiction, and particularly the fictional world it takes place in, needs its rough edges. A
few loose ends. One or two things that exist for no purpose other then to exist, and are absolutely
inconsequential to what is happening in the story being told, in order for the fictional world itself not
to feel manufactured, industrial and sterile, but spontanous, natural and organic.

The flaws of a work do in a way, I think, work as bridges of sorts between the imagination of the
creator and the imagination of the creator’s audience. Like little windows for creator, creation and
beholder to come together and coexists within this fantastical realm that they ultimately made come
alive together.

Let’s not forget that the suspension of disbelief of a fictional world, being displayed for all to see, is a
two-way communication.

So, in conclusion, the advice I would like to bestow onto you struggling storytellers and
worldbuilders of epic fiction out there, speaking from my own experience in collusion with the
subject, is this:
Try not to become TOO obsessed with polishing, refining and tightening the bonds between
storytelling and worldbuilding.
Chances are you’re probably not gonna be able to cover every single detail in your grand and expansive worldbuilding efforts anyway, and if you do, you may run the risk of making it feel too much like a story and less like a spontanous, living world. That which could have been had you left a few kinks for someone else to thread with their own imagination.

A few rough edges for someone else to climb and explore your magical mountains. A few loose ends
for someone else to tie into a mighty lasso for with which to ride the wild and magnificent beasts of
your mysterious landscapes.

That’s what I have to say about it basically anyway.
I’ll provide for you here the link to the Youtube
video for anyone who wants to see this video, that I’ve talked about and quoted from, in full context:

And now, whether to agree or disagree, I would like to see you guys, as the readers of this article, fill
in the things I may have missed out on by leaving your very much welcomed opinons and thoughts in
the comment section.

Helixfinger out.

~just a reminder that if you wish to submit an article, you absolutely can to my email SNOWYWISP (AT) HOTMAIL (DOT) COM or just PQ it to me!!~



PaulEberhardt at 6:42AM, Nov. 29, 2021

I haven't read that series either, but the notion of too much perfection ruining everything makes perfect sense. Art needs a human element, and if you stick too much to the rules, this is what you polish away. It's why looking at ancient statues and listening to perfectly engineered pop music can both get boring very quickly, and this certainly holds true for literature and comics, as well.

Banes at 6:30PM, Nov. 28, 2021

Great stuff, Andreas, thanks! I’m a bit of a nerd/fan of structure, but sometimes it can become too obvious in a story. This article points out an important counterbalance to polish and refining stories. Sometimes those rough edges or unexplored details can be great little nuggets for sequels, too!

Genejoke at 1:36AM, Nov. 28, 2021

The headline reminds me of my exwife... anyway moving on. 100% agree on that aspect of story telling. I didn't read enough of Mistborn to have that opinion as I couldn't relate to the characters, but I did read Sandersons finishing of the wheel of time series. On that he was tying up an epic series that had become a little too bloated so it never became apparent as an issue. In some ways it ties into yesterdays post about quieter moments after the drama and letting a story breath and relax.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 1:02AM, Nov. 28, 2021

@damehelsing - Oh! Right you are! That's how that works. Please ignore my last comment, the link was here all along^^ Thank you damehelsing for the quick correcting👍

damehelsing at 12:38AM, Nov. 28, 2021

Hey Helixfinger, No the link is there! "in full context: here" I made it into a URL code, if they hover over the word "here" they'll get the link.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 12:21AM, Nov. 28, 2021

Hmm. Seems like the link to the video has gone missing. Try searching The thing I really dislike about Mistborn on youtube if any of you guys wanna track down the video I was talking about in this article^^

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