Wednesday, 24 April 2013

U is for Unwritten

Unwritten: Not written or recorded, ie. an unwritten agreement between friends; having authority based on custom, tradition, or usage rather than documentation, ie. an unwritten law; not written on, blank.

This seemed a good word for U because all three definitions can be applied to writing. The most obvious is starting with a blank sheet of paper. All stories start off unwritten, not written or recorded, and just knocking around as an idea before they get onto the paper or screen.

The more interesting definition for me is the second one. When you write stories you automatically create your own world, whether within the real world or entirely different. That world has rules which you don't write down in the story, but which you are very aware of when you do write.

For example, if a person in your story gets knocked over by a bus, then the unwritten rule is that they will get seriously hurt. You don't have to specify that the bus will injure the person. However, if the bus hits Superman, then the unwritten rule would be that the bus would come off worse. Your readers would know that Superman is pretty much indestructable and so they would expect the bus to be dented and Superman to be fine. You can play with unwritten rules to create drama though. What about if the bus hits Superman and, as expected, it is damaged, but Superman energes with a cut on his head? That breaks the unwritten rule, so it creates drama and something which needs explaining, and therefore moves your story forward.

It doesn't have to be Superman either. In an average world, the chances of winning the lottery are pretty slim, so you could play with expectations by making your character win three scratch cards in a row. Breaking unwritten rules to create a story point is something I find happens fairly regularly within most stories. The thing you have to be careful with is to be consistant with your unwritten rules.

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