Something writers, myself included, often forget is the fact that humankind is adept at fooling themselves. Constantly. As this video proves, monsters, conspiracy theories, major religions, all sorts of things we tell ourselves in order to make the world make sense, are in fact, just that, stories. Even the creation of the world is just that. A story, told to make sense of what we don’t understand. Horror stories are meant, not to teach us how to survive the things in the dark, but that there are in fact, things in the dark.
So what does that translate to as a writer? Well, what sort of conspiracy theories populate your world? What do people believe? If people here believe the moon landing was faked, is it possible for the denizens of your world to believe that all the stories of godly behavior are really just coverups for some shady government conspiracy.
In the world of Nightvale, from the podcast Welcome to Nightvale, mountains are in fact, not real. Despite there being one just outside of town.
Now I know what you’re thinking. ‘That’s never going to affect my story. Why do I care what the people of the world believe? Why do I care if some group of idiots thinks that stonehenge is a satellite built by aliens, when in my story it’s a secret fairy-ring!’
Well, they do say that 90% of what goes into a story is never seen by the reader. The sort of depth the world is given when you know what each NPC believes is the sort of depth that people look for. No one wants a story with cardboard for the background.
In the story, ‘The Time Machine’, all we hear about the Time Traveller are rumours, theories, until we meet him. So what theories or rumours surround your own characters? What do they believe about the famous people they’re about to meet? What do they know about the world around them?
Your main characters surely have heard some rumours. And one of the best ways to add conflict to a story is for a rumour like this to be taken seriously, and then, suddenly, to pan out at the worst possible time. Or worse, for a rumour to actually be true! Imagine the looks on your characters faces when it’s not the evil stepmother, but actually the spirit-infested tree growing out of the cursed ground in the back yard?
As an example, in my own series, The Kurylian Saga, the main character , Dirk, has heard rumours about the Priest-Queen and her Knight Templar. Namely, that the father of her children, rather than the God she serves, was in fact, the knight. When he meets the Princess Eamon, he can tell by her hair and her face, that the rumours are in fact, true. The realism of it adds to the depth of the story, even if it doesn’t actually DO much for the plot.
I will leave it here with a simple quote: