I mentioned the Laws of Writodynamics in an earlier post, which I’m sure left some of you wondering, “what the frick is a Law of Writodynamics?”
If you’ve ever taken a basic chemistry class, then you’re already familiar with the Laws of Thermodynamics. In a nutshell, they are as follows:
- Zeroth Law – If two systems are both in equilibrium with a third system, then they are in equilibrium with each other.
- First Law – The Law of Conservation of Energy: matter can neither be created nor destroyed.
- Second Law – Entropy: the entropy (chaos) of any isolated system not in equilibrium almost always increases.
- Third Law – More Entropy: the entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature nears Absolute Zero (which is the point at which all movement stops–even atomic movement).
These Laws are undeniable, unarguable, and unchangeable (until we think up something better). Fun fact: they were created in relation to steam power, but they apply to pretty much everything. Thanks, steam engines!
So without further ado, here are the Four Laws of Writodynamics!
- Zeroth Law – The Law of Trilogies: a trilogy must be in equilibrium from start to finish. The Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics has to do with thermal temperature, and the Zeroth Law of Writodynamics has to do with plot temperature. If you’re going to have a hot plot in the first and second book, then you’ve got to have a hot plot in the third book. Same goes for a cool plot. If the first and second books have different plot temperatures, however, then the third book doesn’t need to follow this law. This Law can apply to multi-book series that exceed trilogies.
- First Law – The Law of Conservation of Characters: you can neither create nor destroy a character. There are no completely original characters. None. Never. Never ever. Every character ever written was based, however loosely, upon a real person or a conglomeration of real persons. Even if the writer wasn’t consciously aware of it, a real person somewhere donated their attitude or foibles or mustache to a character. Likewise, once a writer has thought of a character, that character can never die. He or she will appear somewhere, even if they are unnamed and have no real bearing on the story at large. This Law makes it okay for a writer to picture all of their friends naked.
- Second Law – The Law of Entropy: a novel that is not at its end requires increasing entropy. Entropy is just a fancy-shmancy science word for chaos. Every second, our universe is inching closer and closer to ultimate chaos, and so is your novel. An orderly plot is a boring plot. If your character wakes up in the morning and their day progresses normally, then YAWN. Why am I reading this? Get back to me when something exciting happens. A story needs chaos of some sort to get things moving, and to keep them moving. As long as we need movement, we need entropy.
- Third Law – The Law of Order: the closer you get to the end of the novel (Absolute Zero), the more order is required. The end of the novel is considered Absolute Zero because that’s where everything stops. There is no more forward progression. And the closer we get to Absolute Zero, the more entropy tapers off, and the more order we require. If you end a book in chaos, it will be a rather unsatisfying ending.
Now of course, someone is going to argue that these Laws don’t apply to all writing. Sure. Of course they don’t. Writing isn’t science; it’s art. But I think these Laws are a decent rule of thumb to follow, or a decent set of rules to deliberately break if you want to walk on the wild side.
So go use them!