Okay, not in a fight club, battle to the death with Original Star Trek fight music blaring in the background type of way--but still, a fight of sorts.
Writers need to always keep in mind what the reader probably knows from the real world. This can be a problem of focus: don't step by step me on how to start a car unless there is something new or unique about it, or the car is going to blow up, fly, or vanish. Most people know how cars work. When an author focuses on a mundane, everyday thing, I'm waiting for something NON-mundane to happen. When it doesn't, I become peeved. Peeved readers bad.
Another problem with reader knowledge is common and assumed myths. Even though the author has created a world different from ours, they can't shut off what readers know. I just read a book where the main character (who knows vampires) can't figure out why the vamps keep insisting she invite them in. This popped up four times--each time I kept saying in my head, "No, don't go there, author--everyone knows you can't invite a vampire in your home!" I was annoyed that something that is common myth to most readers was going to be a plot point.
And it was.
Now, first off, vampires don't exist--yes, I do know this. But, for folks who read or watch stuff with vampires--having to invite them in is fairly common. So, me as the reader "knew" what an expert in vampires didn't in the book.
Also to be fair, at nowhere in the book had that topic been introduced, and it appears to be limited to a type of vampire. Logically, the author was fine to do what was done. She didn't break her story mythos. But it still bugged the crap out of me as the reader because I knew what was coming.
The author could have found a better way to make the character be in the same pickle, without annoying readers.
Even when you make up your own worlds, you can't shut off reader knowledge.
It's always tricky to know what the reader does or doesn't know ahead of time. The trick, I think, is to find an interesting, intriguing, or funny way to present it so that even the reader who already knows this stuff is still entertained. Thanks for the post.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Ken! That's a good idea, let people still enjoy things even if it's common knowledge for them :).Delete
The old "suspension of disbelief" problem. Even though aspects of a story are totally fiction there are givens - things accepted as facts - which still exist. When the writer forgets these it pulls the reader out of the story. This is especially true when writing a story about something that has its own sets of givens already established. When diving into a story about such a well known creature, it seems that research is required. There is no excuse for not doing this research. Why spend 320 pages on the hero of the story discovering that a wooden stake through the heart kills a vampire?ReplyDelete
Agreed! Luckily, it wasn't the entire book, but it was extremely annoying to watch it unfold.Delete
I remind myself often that readers bring everything to the book with them- every other vampire book they have ever read- every movie about it they have seen and their own internal beliefs and experiences on the subject comes with them...and I agree with Chemist ken- that the trick is making it an entertaining read despite what they bring to your world.ReplyDelete
Yup! That's the best we can do, try to make it entertaining enough for folks to ignore the "but EVERYONE knows that!" issue ;)Delete
This is a great point. Don't annoy your reader!ReplyDelete