I just got a very nice compliment on Twitter for my origin stories. Compliments are nice, of course. To semi-quote Twain, we do like compliments. All of us do. Novelists, burglars, congressmen, all of us in the trade. But it also got me thinking about why most origin stories are so terrible, and what to do about it.
To put it in the simplest terms, if it’s an origin story, we know what happens. That takes a lot of the fun out of it. But here’s the thing: this is a perfect case for the 3B rule*: Point of view solves everything. We know what happens from certain points of view; but how does it look from the angle of someone we’ve never considered?
Another consideration (closely related to the above) is turning the predictability from a disadvantage to an advantage, which you do with a sort of literary Judo–using the reader’s knowledge against him. “You think you know what happened, but what if everyone’s motivation was different from what you think?” Treat it like secret history–keeping the known “facts” just means you get to play with everything else.
Anyway, not sure if there’s enough meat here for a blog post, but I haven’t touched this thing in a while (it’s not really working yet; I can’t comment on my own posts without jumping through hoops). So, anyway, those were some thoughts on origin stories, and maybe they’ll trigger some conversation.
*If you want to know why I call it the 3B rule, you can ask me. Or Emma Bull. Or Elizabeth Bear.