No, I do not mean that the reality of Star Wars and the GFFA is in the mechanical members of the cast. (Well, perhaps it is, but that’s a different discussion.)
What I meant was something that mainstream author Anna Quindlen said that has stuck with me for-absolutely-ever. She said that when it comes to writing fiction, “Reality is in the dishes.”
Let’s get real—nobody does dishes in a Star Wars novel, but there are lots of nuts and bolts, so I think the idea translates well. Here’s what Anna means: When you’re writing a story, you need to connect with the reader at the human level, since most readers are (for the time being, at least) human in the sense that they come from this planet. This means you have to get the little, itty-bitty, details right.
What details? Hold that question.
Now, Anna is a mainstream writer. This means that she’s not dealing with droids, aliens, space battles, or evil empires. In other words, she’s not using a lot of elements that require readers to suspend their disbelief. Star Wars novels—or any science fiction or fantasy or sub-genre thereof—contain a surplus of situations that require the willing suspension of disbelief. FYI, the phrase “willing suspension of disbelief” was coined by the poet/philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge to justify the use of fantastic (non-realistic) elements in literature. His theory was that if those elements worked, you, Dear Reader, would accept them willingly. If they didn’t work, you wouldn’t accept them.
Reality being in the dishes (or nuts and bolts), relates directly to Coleridge’s “formula.” If I want you to suspend your disbelief that a Jedi Knight can step out of a two-mile-high building and plummet gently to a platform fifty stories below, wielding his lightsaber to dispatch flying ninja droids, I need to get the nuts and bolts extremely right to balance the fantastic.
It’s almost a literary parallel to Occam’s Razor, which (to over-simplify) states that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In the fiction universe, extraordinary events require ordinary counter-balances. You’ll more readily accept my sky-diving Jedi’s extraordinary abilities if I get his nuts and bolts details right—for example, if I give him believable relationships with other characters, if I make him believable in the context of the Jedi code of honor, if I make him a three-dimensional character that acts in ways consistent with what I tell you about him. If I don’t develop his character well or have him acting in ways that are at odds with how you know a Jedi will behave, you won’t care about his extraordinary ability to battle flying ninja droids, much less believe that he can do it. In fact, if he doesn’t come up to snuff as a Jedi in the nuts and bolts aspects of Jedi-ness, you won’t believe for a second that he can control the Force well enough to avoid becoming bug splat if he really did bail out of a Coruscant high-rise.
So, the nuts and bolts we work with as we construct Holostar are the details of characterization, relationships, established facts in the GFFA, and the little “mundane” details of the way we know the Star Wars ‘verse works. That way, when Dash does something truly incredible, you’ll want to believe he can do it because his nuts and bolts are all in the right places.
Hm. That didn’t quite come out right, did it? Oh, well. You’ll still suspend your disbelief, won’t you?
Next time: Writing alien characters.