Sow the wind
If you think about it that’s pretty much what authors write about 90% of the time. Stitching the winds together, including the ill-smelling gusts that go with some characters. I like to put gussets for them… oh.
Not sew. Sow. Forgive me. Yes, it’s that too. Either the lead characters, or the antagonists, or both, sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The story that starts with Dorothy’s parents saying: “Let’s move out of Kansas. Dorothy and Toto would be much safer there” has no Oz.
Of course, just as in real life, the character or the villain can sow a lot of wind before the whirlwind. It’s rather like my first foray into growing our own veggies, when I bought a packet of zucchini seeds. Big packet, lots of seeds… I put about 10 in, because I thought that might mean I’d get maybe 20 zucchini fruits… They hadn’t come up the next day, so I planted another 10. And the next day. And then, deciding they were obviously dud I just planted all the rest. Yes. Well, that was the year I evolved 52 recipes of ways to disguise zucchini…
Now it’s useful in structuring a story to do more than just sow the seeds of chaos and destruction, to see from A to C, and realize that you’re dealing with actions and reactions. To predict just how those actions must spin into reactions. I’m a largely disinterested party as far the US elections, or indeed world politics go. I live very happily on a little island a long, long way away from the rest of the world, and it’s none of it really in my back yard. Of course I know I am affected by it, as are my kids, and friends and family elsewhere. But it is a long way from here. That certain distance I think helps me to see a bigger picture. I was predicting before the US elections that – come what may – society there would start to fracture on partisan lines, and that, come what may, there would be a very substantial number of people that would be angry and responding in social and financial ways. It’s been a one way ‘sowing’ of that whirlwind for a long time now – to the point that I think those who were in power and control thought they could do just precisely what they pleased. Ergo, you have things like the Kelloggs Multinational deciding to punish one of very few pro-Trump news sites by withdrawing their advertising. The news site – one of the very few that actually is growing, hit back by calling a boycott on their products.
Whether the whirlwind the company reap is more than a little dust-devil or not, it marks a change. The more it happens, the more it will happen. And we’ve entered a new age, one in which who your customer is has to start mattering again. For companies – like Kelloggs, or CNN or Tor books for that matter – the WHOLE of your audience matters. You can no longer afford to pander to, or peeve any of them. Any company selling to a broad spectrum of consumers that doesn’t want to lose 40-60% of their market, is going have to learn to be apolitical or lose a huge chunk of income. And no, a well-known company or product cannot just pick up from the side it panders to, to replace those it lost by peeving. There are not enough new customers, and that extra box of special K that Jill bought to make up for Joe’s boycott… Well she won’t be buying another next month and thereafter. There’s only so much laxative you can eat… Joe probably won’t be back. Of course this assumes common sense and hard finance dominate boardrooms, and that government won’t step in and rescue you if they don’t.
There is, logically, a time it doesn’t matter – when you’re a little, relatively unknown to your chosen side – player, so the market is not saturated on that side with your work – then to make a loud noise, to get boycotted by one side can make you noticed and successful with other. When you hear a fashion designer or author sounding off – either they’re really stupid, living in the past when that was still do-able, or feel they are not that well known and could still sell better to their own side. So long as the cake on that side doesn’t have to be split among too many that could be a successful strategy.
So how does this weave into writing a story? Well… the opposite of common sense has to dominate a story. If King Badguy decides to cool things down, and not insist beloved Prince Ancient Rebel’s coat of arms must be chopped off every statue, but that instead he must show some respect for Prince Ancient… you don’t have a story. The problem with this is you risk creating dimwitted villains who are also illogical in their behavior. This is a common problem and one which gets a lot of books TBAR’d. Villians who are stupid, but powerful with all the internal logic of a lesbian demanding that migrants — whose culture and religion prescribes the killing of homosexuals — be welcomed into her country and be enabled to continue in the ways of their root culture, unfettered. That’s fine in reality, but fiction has to make sense.
Which comes down to writing the blind spot into the character. This is actually less hard than you may think – simply because we’re used to them. The kid who’ll drown everything tomato ketchup – but won’t eat a tomato. Uncle so-and-so who is the nicest guy you could meet – except he utterly hates Filipinos. He doesn’t know any, but that doesn’t stop him – and so on. When you look closely there may even be some reason for this blind spot. In fiction one generates that reason. It is a core part of you foreshadowing.
Like the pressure gradients and temperatures that drive that whirlwind it has to be there, or your story will not work. Or worse – you end up with a superhero, and a supervillain and destroying the world.
Let’s hope reality doesn’t imitate fiction. But if it does, let it not be you who reaps the whirlwind.