Apologies, Fantasy Author’s Handbook fans, but today’s post was set aside for a family medical emergency. All’s well now, but here it is 11:30 p.m. in the Seattle area, and I’m just now getting to the computer.

How about a quick thought exercise for this week?

Your characters are busy getting about their business when, utterly without warning or further meaning to the story, one of them needs an emergency appendectomy.

Because that’s how that happens: utterly without warning or further meaning to the story.

—Philip Athans


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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2 Responses to MISSING DAY

  1. Don says:

    So, my question is, if something happens that is “without further meaning to the story” is it worth including in the story? Wouldn’t that fall in line with things like sleeping and going to the bathroom? An emergency appendectomy isn’t mundane like those things are, but if it doesn’t affect the story at all, is it actually part of the story you’re trying to tell as an author?

  2. Yes and no. Anything that simply doesn’t matter is like going to the bathroom, burping, etc., but sometimes we get a little too “causal” in fantasy and SF, so that everything has some kind of greater significance. It’s not just a bad appendix it’s the result of a curse or a poison or radiation exposure, etc. rather than random happenstance. But what then follows WILL matter to the story, like characters taken out of the action by the flu in The Walking Dead. The illness itself is a random event but its implications take the story in interesting new directions.

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