Why writing a book is like creating parallel universes #amwriting

When I was little there was a children’s book I read, and in the book you got to choose what happened next. Such books were not new then, and they are still around now. I saw an adult version of this not very long ago. You know the kind…

Lots of exciting stuff has happened…do you:

Open the door – go to page 64

Turn around and walk away – go to page 72

This got me thinking about the writing process, and how, when we write, we sit out of time, as if we are sitting on the edge of countless parallel universes.

Nobody knows the exact way the book will turn out when they start to write. Writers are always talking about the way characters can surprise them, or how the story can twist itself unexpectedly.

But what about us?

What if we sit down to write a chapter today, would it be the same chapter if we wrote it tomorrow instead? Would it be close, slightly different, or very different? And if it was different, could it shape the entire rest of the book.

Hence my parallel universe reference.

It’s a little mind blowing to think that if you sit down at your keyboard you may write a scene in a completely different way just because you are feeling particularly happy or particularly sad. And what if the phone rings and interrupts you, and when you come back you have decided that a character needs to die, or fall in love, or something else that you had no inkling of before.

It’s in that moment when you decide to stop writing, when you move away from your keyboard for whatever reason that a new parallel universe pops in, like a deck of cards on endless shuffle, or a kaleidoscope shifting sand, you never know exactly how the dice are going to fall until they do fall, or in writing terms, sit back down at your computer. And when you do everything has shifted and you sit down to a different place and a different head space.

Every time we write a story, we could have written a million more.

Would those other variations have been better or worse or just different?

Life too, is full of choices and the consequence of those choices impact everything that comes after, so it seems only fair that our fictitious worlds should be subject to the same whims.

We might think that there are a million stories or a million lives we could have lived, but ultimately there is only one story, just as there is only one passage through our life, and that is the one we choose to write.

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31 thoughts on “Why writing a book is like creating parallel universes #amwriting

  1. This is so true–and not only with fictional stories. It happens to me with poems, blog posts–even nonfiction writing can change. You can choose to emphasize one part over another, or change the entire theme.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Makes me think of those times I have to decide if I’m going to write or do errands first. Have to wonder just how many parallel universes are out there. There would have to be one or each decision a person could have made. Kind of makes my head hurt if I think about it for too long.

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  3. “What if we sit down to write a chapter today, would it be the same chapter if we wrote it tomorrow instead?”

    Probably not. πŸ™‚

    I had the experience once of sitting down to finish a novel which I had started over ten years earlier. The general plot went the same way as I’d planned all those years ago, but a lot of the details were very different than if I’d finished it in the same decade when I’d started it.

    I was very interested in hypertext fiction once, and I wrote one story I’m pretty pleased with, but that type of writing turned out to be a dead end, at least for me. I wrote about it on my blog:
    http://u-town.com/collins/?p=541

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      1. If I can generalize on the basis of limited experience, I can say two things: 1) almost nobody does it, and, 2) of the few who do, no two do it the same. For example, some people incorporate audio and images, which wouldn’t occur to me.

        Here’s another generalization: Some people, as with the book you wrote about, allow the reader to choose how the story goes. Others, like me, just allow readers to choose how they walk through a fixed story, which rooms they visit and which they don’t — or at least in which order.

        My first experiments with hypertext storytelling were before the web existed, but obviously doing it on the web makes it a lot easier.

        Liked by 1 person

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