Despite the fact that there seems to be only one rule about how to learn to write well (just write, buddy!), there seem to be a bajillion rules about what makes a good story.  For example – Everything needs to be plausible , all the characters need to have a purpose, every scene must streamline to fulfill plot purposes, if it doesn’t, it needs to be cut, and so on.

I’ve noticed that all the rules about what makes a “good story” these days are grounded in logic, pragmatism, and economy. (You’d think we’d got a certificate of graduation for the “Age of Reason” or something.) So I was tickled pink to read this in Rothfuss’ January Reddit Q&A:

Reddit’s I AMA Fantasy Author w/Pat Rothfuss


Hey, Pat. I’m not sure if this has been answered, but I remember reading somewhere that Auri wasn’t originally part of the story. In a sentence, why did you decide to include her?

PRothfuss – AMA Author:

There is no rational reason I could give you that would be satisfying. I could explain to you some of the functions she serves in the story. The role she fills.

But that wouldn’t be the real truth. Not the true truth.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason. Merely that it is not a quantifiable, rational thing.

Some questions are not in the realm of raw logic. Art is one of these things. And so is Auri. You might as well ask, “Why a butterfly?”

There are so many gems, so much potential gold in stories that don’t necessarily tick off every rule in the rulebook.  I tend to feel defensive about this, though, (and have to justify my inclusions under the “subplot” heading). Like a dragon guarding her jeweled horde.  There’s no imperative, logical reason for that horde to be there. Is the dragon “using” it? No. Could that gold and those jewels be better spent? Probably. But if every story were crafted entirely by logic, then where would whimsy be? Life would be so colorless without it, in our lives and in the lives of our characters both.

So, cue me immensely relieved to discover I am not the only one who feels this way, and that it is perfectly acceptable to do this.  Thus I thought I would share, (as I combat my overdeveloped sense of responsibility in all aspects of my life).  For now, though, it seems like only epic fantasy authors are allowed to be whimsical with their nuts and bolts, and add in more for the sake of life rather than stripped-down, pragmatic story.

Thoughts?  Though I will say, I’m not advocating dumping every idea into a story willy-nilly, just…giving us more room to breathe.

One response to “Whimsy

  • Kathy Carlston

    This is only slightly on topic, but I’ve been listening to this playlist at work and thought you’d find it interesting. http://www.ted.com/playlists/62/how_to_tell_a_story.html

    But Re: the content of this post, I think that whimsy and bonus characters add spice to stories and to the content of our lives in general. What is a Final Fantasy game without a plucky character or a meaningless but fun side quest? And how many times does some random stranger’s smile make our day? Spice is made of win.

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