Wednesday, May 28, 2008

But Why?

I went to the movies this weekend. To the drive-in, actually. We’re lucky enough to have five within a reasonable driving distance from my house. I even got the idea for my first published m/m story while at the drive-in a few years ago. But that’s another story.

This story is about the movies.

I have a healthy, active and well-nurtured suspension of disbelief. I live for fiction. I love action, science fiction, horror and the genre often requiring greatest suspension of disbelief—romance. But as I watched a completely improbable action scene in the first movie at the drive-in, I couldn’t help complaining. Out loud, but hey, drive-in, remember? I was in my car, bothering no one but my own improbable partner in romance. My complaint? “Just look at that. Screenwriters can get away with anything. They never have to explain.”

Story-tellers who write books suffer a disadvantage. Readers won’t just take our word for it, no matter how deeply we immerse them in our world. Nothing just happens. As novelists, we have to explain things, show not only what but why and how. Deus ex machinas, like a miraculous hand of water lifting the protagonists to safety, will not be tolerated in today’s fiction. Obviously all movies don’t strain credulity to that point, and the second feature at the drive-in was a vast improvement, but the writers still got away with brushing off explanations.

And as much as I whine (never aloud if I’m in the theater), as much as I want to pull the mommy card and answer “Because I said so” when a critique partner says “But why?” I wouldn’t want things any other way. I like the challenge; I want to be accountable to readers.

Don’t believe me? Too bad. This isn’t fiction so I don’t owe you a why. Does that make me ready for the movies?


Anonymous said...

:) I’m reading your RSL right now and I’m grateful of your explanations.
It is so important to explain things. Like you, I get very upset when the big parts of a story don’t make sense. The little unclear things I can let go of, but the big ones have to be explained! Not good when I read a whole book and don’t have a clue what it was about.
Well, you’re good at making things clear to the reader, so you don’t have to worry much.

Anonymous said...

Phew, thanks. If I'd sinned against reasonable story developments, that would have been awkward. Thank my critique group for keeping me in line! And now I'm trying to figure out who has RSL. *scratches head*

Anonymous said...

just your mysterious fle, who happens to read Slash & Burn sometimes

Anonymous said...

I do think it's happening less and less in movies. They can't get away with it as much as they once did. However TV shows/soaps are still flying high.

But books is a different beast. You can't get away with anything. But that's the point in a book/story right. You explain, you give the reader reasons. Whether they agree that's a different animal altogether.


K.A. Mitchell said...

Yes, I agree, readers make their own world when they read our books. They can choose to take what we've given them, but I love all the new shades of meaning that they layer on. I've read reviews where the reviewer saw things I didn't know were there, but her reading made perfect sense.

And oh mysterious fle, did I mention I was totally planning on praising your unsung talents in a future blog. ;) Actually, anything that makes reading my books easier is a credit to my editor and my critique group. The problems that are left are because of my stupidity.

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