The Force was not a magic button that could get Finn, Han, and Chewie out of the tight spot they found themselves in. Why not? Isn’t the Force an all-powerful, magic-like strength that could lift an entire X-wing out of a swamp only two episodes earlier? Yes. So what’s the deal?
The Force has natural laws which govern it, principles that cannot be obstructed. These laws can never be changed. That’s why Han could confidently say the quote mentioned at the outset- because Han knew the Force from years of experience. Finn didn’t know it at all. He thought it was just a mysterious magic button that could save them from their desperate situation.
You must be responsible with the laws you put in place in your world. If there are irreversible natural laws that govern the planet you’ve created, or the naturally occurring powers you’ve invented, then you must record these laws and strictly adhere to them.
Absolutely nothing causes a reader to throw your book across the room harder than a break from rigid natural law. The reader is 1,000% of the time going to feel cheated. And even worse, they will see you as an irresponsible writer that cannot be trusted!
Think about the natural laws which govern Earth, for a moment. Gravity, for instance, is the force causing all things to pull toward the center of the earth. If you drop a hammer, it is 100% likely to fall to the ground (and about 75% likely to bust up your toe along the way). Absolutely nothing on Earth can reverse the effects of gravity. Now, there are some creatures and technologies which can defy the effects of gravity to a degree, but the law still stands in place: if a plane experiences engine failure, it will fall to the earth. It wouldn’t begin floating further up into the sky until it entered the troposphere, would it?
There are also natural laws in every living creature which govern their behavior. For instance, Canada geese have an internal clock, or instinct, telling them when to fly south for the winter. Us humans have legs which help us run, jump, skip, and walk, but not fly. We can only hold our breath under water for a max of a couple minutes. We cannot breathe underwater. These natural laws guide our way of life, and cannot be broken.
Your more widely encompassing natural laws should be revealed in Act One of your story. Because your world is brand new to your readers, they need to know what to expect at the outset. What natural laws you reveal to them should also depend on your plot and the characters involved.
If you continuously introduce natural laws to suddenly solve irreversible problems in your story, however, your reader is not going to believe in your world. They won’t see it as a real establishment, but instead more like a sand box you’re hosting a private party in.
Have you ever played tag with a kid before? I have about a million little cousins myself, and they love playing tag with me. But every single one of them breaks tag “law”. Right as I’m about to tag them, they conveniently place their hand on a nearby tree and announce total immunity. Since I’m the adult, I let this silly cheat go every time. But your reader will not be so kind if you break laws or conveniently insert new ones out of nowhere. If you continuously find yourself inventing new natural laws, or breaking set laws, just to conveniently settle problems, your reader is going to feel cheated. They will see you as a sneaky kid looking to win that game of tag. And they will throw your book across the room. Again.
With that in mind, let’s look at more forms of natural laws and invisible forces that govern Earth, people, and creatures:
Laws governing Earth:
- Tilt of Earth’s axis causes seasonal change
- Time: cannot be reversed, sped up, or paused
- The moon dictates tides
- Change of daylight into night time
Laws governing humans:
- The need for oxygen
- The need for water
- The need for sleep
- The need to eat
- Waste removal
- The aging process
Laws governing plants and animals:
- Seasonal change
- The aging process
After considering the natural laws which govern our world, consider what laws will influence your people, creatures, lands, and planets. You can be creative with laws, but you cannot go breaking them all willy-nilly.
Is there ever a time when it is considered acceptable to break a natural law? Believe it or not, yes. But only for one, big reason.
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