My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Jaime Lee Moyer to talk about how Calling Things Into Being relates to Delia’s Shadow…
The fact that all writers have superpowers of one kind or another is a poorly kept secret. Superpowers are the only logical explanation for what we do.
Think about it. A writer sits down and stares at a blank computer screen for months, sometimes years at a time, and when she finally types “The End”, a whole new world exists. Now others are able to see what she saw, feel the heat of the sun or the cold chill of rainfall, smell spices in a marketplace that never was, and come to know people that formerly only lived inside her head.
Creation, in all it’s forms, has to be the ultimate superpower.
I thought hard about what one facet of my creation superpower I used the most while writing Delia’s Shadow. The formal name for what I did is something like Calling a Thing into Being for the Very First Time.
This is also commonly known as Making Shit Up.
Myths and legends about ghosts and hauntings exist in every human culture. These go hand in hand with stories of haunted woods or castles, spirits leading unwary travelers to their deaths, and tales of ancestor ghosts sharing secrets. People have always believed in the restless dead coming back to walk the world of the living.
But there is no ultimate guide to ghosts, no Big Book of Ghosts to consult for all the rules of being haunted and ghostly behavior. There isn’t any list (that I could find) that says why some ghosts look almost alive, while others are tattered and threadbare. The same is true for how to deal with a ghost haunting you, how to banish a ghost for good, or just shut them out of your head temporarily.
I needed to know and explain all of those things in Delia’s Shadow. Since definitive explanations didn’t exist in the world at large, I made them up. This made my life as a writer both easier and harder at the same time.
Creating explanations from air is harder because you have to make sure that you establish some kind of logic that goes with those explanations, and follow your established logic without fail. Making up the rules doesn’t mean you can break them or ignore the reasons behind them. You have to be consistent.
That the story takes place in the real world of one-hundred years ago didn’t exempt me from following the rules I’d made. It’s not any different than building a magic system from scratch in a secondary world, or designing a social structure or an environment. If anything I needed to be more careful. Mistakes against a real world background tend to flash in neon colors, making them visible to everyone.
The flip side is that making stuff up is the most fun I have as a writer. If I say a ghost walks through walls because she is following a path remembered from life, that’s how it works. Who can tell me I’m wrong?
It’s not as flashy a superpower as flying or web-slinging, and watching me in action is probably pretty boring. Making shit up involves a lot of thinking and staring into space, a lot of frowning at the computer screen.
I’m keeping it. The best writer superpowers are the ones that quietly reveal themselves page after page, word by word, persuading you to believe.
Jaime Lee Moyer lives in San Antonio with musician Marshall Payne, two cats, three guitars, and a growing collection of books and music. Delia’s Shadow is her first published novel.