Anyone ever read Eragon? The entire series, I mean. Spoiler alert, by the way–I’m going to be a wee bit critical, and if you haven’t read the series, you might want to close this window right about now.
Okay, now that you’re with me, I’d like to start out with a compliment. Eragon has a great universe. Unfortunately, the rules and exceptions to the rules in said universe allow for complete reader disassociation. (I may have already touched on this in “The SPHISW Problem,” but bear with me here. This is a little different.)
Universe construction happens to be one of my favorite parts of the writing process. It’s also one of the most annoying. It’s possible to build a universe in which anything can happen, but sometimes that “anything can happen” thing also means that whoops–you just lost your central conflict. I mean, how can you have a ghetto if you have a quantum assembler that can make anything out of nothing with virtually no energy? There’s really no downside to giving that away, right? (I mean, I couldn’t think of one…especially since it removed garbage too.)
Yes, that accidentally made it into a story. I needed a way for my character to always have what he needed–a magic backpack of sorts–and forgot where I was setting it. Whoops.
However, all is not lost! While one might need a ghetto for the story, and the backpack for the plot…the time, perhaps, is a little flexible? How about setting this in the past, with the help of a little time travel? Just make sure to define the rules, or you’ll get something like the TV show Flash. I swear, I have no freaking clue how anything works in that universe. Yadda yadda, split timelines, inconsistently-applied rules, whatever.
I’ll still watch it, though. When does it start again…?
Back to Eragon as a prime example. The first book was great. It consistently applied the rules for magic and made sure there was a balance between abilities and strength. The second book cheated a little to heal Eragon. Okay, can deal. The third book added a nice little “power-up” section–thanks, dragons–in order to help Eragon prepare for an extremely hyped-up fight against the evil king.
…and the forth book gave the king a LITERAL “god-mode,” resulting in some figurative “bulls**t” in order to defeat him. I would have read the hell out of a book where a) the king and Eragon were more or less equal, requiring an ingenious plan for the fight, b) the king was actually overhyped and Eragon smacks him down a lot easier than anticipated (while less enjoyable, it would have been a nice yank-the-rug-out-from-under-you moment), or c) Eragon gets freaking curb-stomped and…y’know, I wouldn’t really care what happens after that, but I’d be interested in seeing where that one would have gone. Because the dude really should have gotten his posterior handed to him on a silver platter. One could argue that he did, but then the bulls**t happened and Eragon won. By default.
You know what would have been way funnier? Eragon gets curb-stomped and then the king goes, “Hey, you know what? Too easy. There’s no challenge anymore. Here’s a crown–I’m gonna go conquer a new country,” and waltzes out. Seriously. Imagine how hard it would be for Eragon to unite the country when everyone knows he just got whupped? And the king might come back?
I may enjoy messing with people’s expectations. Sometimes. But hey, regardless of whether or not you go with the flow or write a twist ending, just make sure your universe supports it.
Without the god mode. That’s cheating in video games, and it’s cheating in books, too.
Wait. What if the god mode had its own rules and was a part of the universe?…I should write a book about a god mode. DIBS.