Internal Story Logic — why it’s so important

Sometimes I find myself having the same argument. Often, those arguments can be about religion and politics and philosophy and semicolons. BUT NOT TODAY. Today, the argument in question is about the internal logic of an illogical system. AKA: Stuff has to make sense even if it’s based on stuff that doesn’t make sense.

This also happens when someone opens your writing/book/story/etc. and says, “But why?”


The argument goes like this:

Roommate: “I’ll just fly the saucer to New York and get pizza.”

Me: “You can’t just fly into NYC in a space ship.”

Roommate: “But it’s a flying saucer. I can fly it anywhere!”

Me: “You don’t think the military and airports track flight activity over one of our country’s biggest cities?”

Roommate: “Dude, we’re talking about a flying saucer. You’re thinking about this too much. It’s fiction!”

Me: “Even if you’re engaged in a hypothetical situation, you still have to adhere to an interior logic!”

Roommate: *dull stare*

Me: “You are so getting hypothetically shot out of the sky.”


Wait, what does that argument prove?

So what was that argument about? Roommate said that since he made up the situation, he could make up the rules too. Yes, you might want a character to swoop through the city on a stolen saucer to snag a slice of cheesy delight. But you have to consider the ramifications and logic of those actions.

It’s easy for us to say “Character A has to do X in order for Y to happen.” And you can write it that way, as long as it makes logical sense.

When we’re writing stories, we have to do research. What are the flight traffic patterns and laws? How long would it take before you see a fighter jet on your tail?

But even if we’re on a totally different planet in a totally different culture and time period, you still have to have the story make sense.

If you fly a saucer into a city, won’t people notice? Won’t the government issue an Almighty Arrest Warrant? Won’t your character become apublic enemy? Does your character have any previous saucer-flying abilities/training? If not, you’re crashing into buildings and probably smushing people.


What if your plot has logical flaws?

Don’t panic. Seriously. It’ll be OK. Don’t want your character killing the innocent man out to buy a hotdog? Give the saucer an autopilot. Easy peasy.

Don’t want your character hunted by the authorities? Give the saucer stealth technology or an invisible shield or a neurological field that displaces memories so no one will remember you!

Always approach it from a “What could go wrong?” standpoint. If you give your saucer neuro-beams, the saucer itself still going to show up on sensors and recordings and video cameras. If you’re on autopilot, your character better not be steering.

You want to make sure, especially if you’re world-building in SFF genres, that you create logical systems. Systems of government, religion, culture, geography, navigation, relationships, architecture, and science.


Where do you get help for this?

Mostly, you’ll be relying on your own imagination and the beautiful time vortex of Research. But it doesn’t have to be so lonely. There’s a lot of other humans out there with research and knowledge and who are more than willing to help. Search forums on your topic, post questions. Ask the Twitterverse! Ask other people you know in real life. If it’s November-ish, consult the NaNoWriMo research forums!

What sort of logic flaws and plot holes are YOU facing? Where do you go for answers?


7 thoughts on “Internal Story Logic — why it’s so important

  1. Hi Rebecca, I found your blog through Laura Salters’ Twitter account. Fellow unpublished aspiring author here. I read about the books you’ve written/are writing, and they all sound incredible! This post was incredibly helpful, I’m dealing with a few of thes situations in my current WIP! Also, I’ve decided we should be friends. So there’s that.

    • FRIENDS! Yes! Absolutely positively!
      And thanks for the lovely compliment. I always figure that if I’m learning along the way, there’s always others in the boat with me. THAT’S WHY WE CALL IT FRIEND-SHIP! 😀

  2. Pingback: Avoid Plot Holes | words — and other things

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