Monday, November 27, 2006

Snapping Suspenders

Stone lithograph, Beyond the Night, Michael Parkes.
Yesterday's was Riddle, by same. Magic realism.

Just what snaps your suspenders of disbelief?
I don't mean to the point of wall-banging, but those small items or descriptions that make you curl your lip in that nasty, superior fashion.
I suppose the answer is obvious - we tend to zero on those areas wherein we believe we have some knowledge, experience or interest.
Tolerance levels may vary from book to book, and I suspect that writer-readers may actually be more tolerant than the pure reader regarding glitches and omissions in fact or logic - partly because we often read with a dual purpose and not just for entertainment.
We've probably all read of the double-jointed hero who manages to kiss the heroine's tummy while actively inserted.
Doesn't mean we'll immediately call on the god of all chiropractors and hurl the book across the room.
For me, the main result is that I am inclined to distrust, not the story, but the author's capacity to tell it. My disbelief is directed towards the author, more than the tale.
On the other hand, detail that strikes us as authentic may reinforce our confidence in a particular author and/or story.
Probably because of the earlier discussion about symptoms of prevarication, I noticed a short passage in The Next Ex where the heroine, in keeping something back from a detective, stares at the table, looks away and mumbles. Bingo on body language.
I tend to be more beady eyed about details connected with certain periods of history, religions, relationships and aspects of the natural world in general. Sometimes, if something strikes me as peculiar, awkward or curious, I may even take the trouble of checking it out. Sometimes the writer is dead on and I'm the idiot.
How seriously do you take abberations and abeyances? Do you feel personally insulted when a writer gets something wrong in your view? More so when it falls within your area of expertise?
Or does disregard of general common sense/knowledge annoy you more?
Recently read something that equated soldiers and mercenaries. Went up in flames.
What drops you like gravity?


kmfrontain said...

Hollywoodisms and Harlequinisms. The car that goes kaboom in a most dramatic way when most just go crunch. The overused description of a hero or heroine. There are all sorts of examples of both, but Hollywoodisms are the ones that give away a writer's lack of understanding how the real world works. I recommend Mythbusters for a partial cure.

Oh, I should add modern Western values on how people think sometimes make a reader disbelieve when he perhaps shouldn't disbelieve. I've actually had a more naive reader apply North American "think" to a scene about cruelty to other human beings. He discounted ample evidence from all over the world and throughout history that humans can be very cruel indeed.

Bernita said...

Ha, good terms, Karen.
Anachronistic thinking turns my crank too.

writtenwyrdd said...

You're spot on when you say we tend to be more picky when it's a topic we know something about.

Perhaps it is arrogant of me, but it drives me totally insane to have an author force me to assume anything, in particular when it is involving the character's motivation. Perhaps it is because they aren't skilled enough to plant decent cues; but it might also be my failings as a reader. (Arrogantly, I doubt it's the latter.)

Character movtivations and actions should fall logically and seamless from what has been protrayed in the story so far. Don't make me make leaps of logic!

December Quinn said...

Hmmm. I usually suspend my disbelief pretty well, but if people are acting stupidly with no reason it bugs me. Occasionally details do--my Mom is an ER nurse so I know how that stuff bugs her, so now it bugs me. (I once made the mistake of recommending a book where someone decides to be a nurse and then just is. I hadn't noticed it, but I got a big lecture on it, so now I cringe instinctively.)

Anachronism, yes, if it isn't explained (I have a medieval heroine who doesn't believe in God, but at least she's aware of how odd an attitude it is and takes care to hide her feelings--and she has a reason for it, which is explained later in the book.)

Stuff like that. I'm pretty easy, I guess, but when people don't seem to understand their actual jobs or make dumb assumptions any idiot wouldn't make, that gets me.

Ric said...

I can even get over the Too Stupid To Live syndrome - if there have been some clues to her motivation.
The worst ones are where you, the reader, as a rational human being cannot conceive of ever acting that way in a situation.

Hollywoodisms annoy me the most. Watching someone driving through Detroit and having mountains in the background - if the film maker never went to Detroit - why did he set the movie there?
And I agree with Bernita, suspension of belief relies on trusting the author to get it right. When he blows it, you lose faith.

Bernita said...

Motivation...that's an interesting point, Writtenwyrdd.
Something I worry about with my heroine and wonder if the reader will accept her pragmatic and cold-blooded aspect. A factor related in some ways to what Karen mentioned.
Could you proffer an example that turned your crank?

Bernita said...

Again, that's related to Karen's point, December.
The innocent idea by possible readers that all medieval characters were exclusively devout.
Think you evade Written's complaint, because your character takes the trouble to hide it.

Things like that shout stupid carelessness, Ric.
I end up feeling a wee bit insulted.

Sela Carsen said...

Since I'm currently writing a boink-ful story, I'm concerned with how many times the hero can, er, stand to attention in one sexual marathon without breaks. I mean, it's been a while since I was young, and I don't claim an enormous variation of personal experience, but isn't 6 or 7 times in the space of a couple of hours just a little...unusual?

I LOLd at the double-jointed hero, Bernita. I'm glad to see I'm not the only person who wondered about that!

Ric said...

Sela, as long as no one asks where I get this arcane knowledge...

The Real Sex lady on tv (my wife works early hours) anyway...
20 minutes is the minumum time for the male body to regnerate (assuming young and healthy)

As for old fogeys like Erik and me, wake us after an couple hours or so.

Bernita said...

Neither do I, Sela, but I would think 2 or 3 times would be about the maximum.

December Quinn said...

Sela, I, uh, have this friend...whose boyfriend managed 5 times in about an hour and a half.

They were both 19/20 at the time.

Sela Carsen said...

LOL!!! Holy cow, people! Now I know where to go for arcane sexual information!

Ric, 20 minutes rest, eh? My hero is in his early 30s, I think. Not quite in the first blush of youth anymore.

Bernita, I agree. Anyway, after that, wouldn't they both be walking funny the next day?

December, a friend, huh? You betcha. Sounds like a night for your, uh, friend to remember!

Bernita said...

Mathematically, about every 18 minutes - about Ric's parameters.
But what about her with Quick Draw Mcgraw?
Would that be an ouch or a arggh?

MissWrite said...

Sela, it's the 21st century (or is it the 22nd now? hum...) anyway, the answer to your sex marathon question is VIAGRA.


All of you have made fantastic points, however, each of those points also have counters. If it's done WELL, it works. Cars going kaboom in the most dramatic way works just fine if it's part of the stories intrinsic nature to begin with, and the tension and suspense have led up to it in a believable way... if the story has been light, airy, and fluffy and a car explodes, I'm thinking sue Detroit/massive recalls on defective kabooming cars. Stupid, wall-banger, etc...

Yes, something we know--I read a piece recently where a kindly old country doc drove his 7 foot tall standardbred down a path narrowly missing from running the horse into trees. First, no standardbred in the world has ever dreamed to be 7 feet tall (in the way horses are measured anyway, at the withers, or shoulders if you will) that height would make a shire proud--second, unless the horse was blind no self-respecting horse would run into a tree, driven or not.

Could very well be that no one else would pick up on that (except other horsemen) but it makes me furious because as a child I read and devoured books by the likes of Walter Farley, and Margarite Henry not only for the love of the story, but because I felt I was gaining an inside knowledge to the way horses were, looked, lived... I still want to feel that way when I read a book, any book, horses or no.

If a character in your book is an accountant, you better know enough about that world to make it believable.

As for motivation, that truly is one of the most important things. Does the character react reasonably for THAT character. Bernita, is there enough about your character known to make her darkness understandable? It doesn't even take a whole lot sometimes. A simple line of thought relating to a current instance where she reacts 'coldly' could provide the background to her motivation, but it should be there because 'most people' it could probably be said, aren't cold-hearted. We tend to sympathize more with benevolent characterizations. Maybe because we consider ourselves to be 'nice' in general, or because we wish to be and think heroes (heroines) should be too.

It's certainly okay to be dark, hell Batman is a hottie and for the most part a very acceptable hero, yet pretty freakin' screwed up and dark. It's the knowing why that makes us feel for his plight, and understand him, and accept his twisted psyche.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'll have to give it some thought to give you a really good answer, Bernita; but the first thing that pops into my mind are the characters in Eragon. That book drove me nuts with the way characters would move about to the author's whims and not according to a rational person's thinking.

For example, Murtagh is (too coincidentally) the son of a Forsaken, and becames buddies with Eragon--instantly, in the irrational 'lets be best friends' manner of small children. There is obviously something fishy about all this, but Eragon doesn't question the guy's motives, even when he learns who Murtagh is, and even when Murtagh disappears.

Now, he should at least wonder and work through such possibilities, even if he chooses not to doubt his new pal.

That's the only example I can think of off the cuff.

I think Eragon will make a fun movie, but the book was seriously in need of some de-cliche-ing, for lack of a better word.

writtenwyrdd said...
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writtenwyrdd said...
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Anonymous said...

I'll have to give it some thought to give you a really good answer, Bernita; but the first thing that pops stname=Canice

writtenwyrdd said...

Hey, bernita, you might want to delete the two duplicates of that last post! Blogger!

Bernita said...

See, Sela, all you need is an 18th century aphrodisiac!

And I see I have a problem, Tami, because even you automatically call it a "darkness."
Mustn't kill the bad guys.

Bernita said...

Done, Writtenwyrdd!
The hardest part of editing is not always examining what's there, but seeing what isn't there.

MissWrite said...

Well, no no, killing bad guys is a good thing, lol. That's not 'a darkness'. In my example of dark heros, Batman, he wasn't 'dark' because he killed bad guys per say, but his vigilante methods could be consider so, and his mental state indicated a darkness based on the horrors of his past. While some might say 'get over it', he does act outside of the 'social norms' in his alter ego while appearing quite socially acceptable in his Bruce Wayne incarnation. It's actually a really cool juxtaposition.

If your heroine is in a predicament and killing a bad guy is part of that, that's not 'bad, or dark' necessarily, but if she's out searching for these bad guys and perhaps just one step beneath the law in doing so... or things along that nature. It becomes a psychological issue that needs to be understood lest the reader start to dial the white coats on the speed dial.

Carla said...

"And I see I have a problem, Tami, because even you automatically call it a "darkness." "

Well, for what it's worth, I read 'pragmatic and cold-blooded' and I thought 'logical, rational, unsentimental', rather than 'darkness', so that suggests the response might be different for different readers.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Tami, you relieve my mind. Thought for a moment there I was really out of touch with the average reader's logic and response.

You seem to have a real feel for her character,Carla, that describes most of her actions quite well, especially since she has faced a number of emotional issues already which have determined her outlook. Thank you.

MissWrite said...

Quote: especially since she has faced a number of emotional issues already which have determined her outlook.

bingo! If the reader knows this, you are golden.

Bernita said...

Thank you.
I'd be even more golden if I consistently use the proper &*@&% verb...

Bonnie Calhoun said...

"What drops you like gravity?"

ROFLOL...the first thing on that list is that stone that position real boobs wouldn't be plastered tight up against a body like that. I don't care how yound and perky they are!....ROFLOL...Oops! Excuse me. I'm just coming out of my triptopan comma!

Bernita said...

Air pressure, Bonnie.
Does anyone want to calculate how fast she is going based on the boob compression?

December Quinn said...

Did someone say Batman? *snaps head around to look*


Sela, it was actually an afternoon. I mean, that's what my friend said.

Is your hero a supernatural of some kind? Because I'd imagine that yeah, a normal man of that age would probably need at least eight-ten hours to perform that many times. At least. You could probably get around it by having him reflect on how unusual this is for him, or have him comment on it, or something, though.

Gabriele C. said...

What makes me fling books across rooms is historical inaccuracies - especially if the writer states on her website how much research she did. Was it all Wikipedia, girl?

And that inclused those 21th century women planted into times gone by.

In general, I'm wary about books that have both Historical and Romance on the cover.

Carla said...

That should provide hours of harmless fun on a physics newsgroup (might even get adolescent boys interested in science?), but I'm 20 years out of practice on the calculations.

Be fair, though, she has got her shoulders pulled right back, and the relevant muscle tension would likely do wonders even for floppy anatomy. I remember reading or hearing an interview with a glamour photographer once where he opined that he always got girls to pose with their arms above their heads if they were aged more than about 21.

Bernita said...

Sela, please give some thought to your heroine - don't make him a five minute slam-bam-thank-you, ma'am.

It's sometimes the things they don't think to research, Gabriele.
Myself, I've taken out and out back in a certain fragrant herb three times, because sources can't agree or the reference/translation is misleading.
I've just resigned myself to the fact that there will be room for scorn and charges of slopiness - some of it justified, perhaps, some not.

Humph at the photographer, Carla! Perpetuates a stereotype about bosoms, sag and age - but perhaps he was dealing with the bra-less generation.

Carla said...

No, I think he was just a creep :-)

Bernita said...

And probably a hebephile to boot, she sniffed.

Erik Ivan James said...

Ric is correct about old foggies like me. 30 minutes now to get my...uh..."second-wind". Then 40 minutes for my third, 40 more for my fourth.....

Bernita said...

More math.
Let's see now...30 min. between Incident #1 and #2, 40 min. between Incident #2 and #3...assuming the train travels at the same rate of speed...looks like Erik's your man, Sela...except we still don't know how long he stayed at each station...

Ballpoint Wren said...

Messing up historical facts bugs me. I studied more than my share of religious history, so when I read the DaVinci Code I threw the book down several times. I forced myself to finish it because my friend adores it, but dang.

I'm not talking about whether or not Jesus was married; that is a possibility I can handle. I'm talking about stuff like that whole Priory of Sion hoax.

I would've been able to handle the inaccuracies, I think, if the author hadn't insisted it was completely factual.

Bernita said...

Seems I am going to have to break down and buy that book, Bonnie...if for no other reason than to chortle over things like that.

raine said...

Bernita, I LOVE these paintings.

Yes, certain inaccuracies bother me. And yes, I've been known to flinch, groan, even leave the book unfinished.
But if the author's voice is tremendous, I'll give it a blink or two and move right along. I can be very forgiving if you captivate me. :-)
And yes, it happens mostly when it's an area I have some knowledge of, but not always.
Most recently it happened in a time-travel novella in which the hero went back in time--and ran into himself as a very young child. I don't know a LOT about physics, dear author, but I believe that's theoretically impossible.
And another, a romance in which the professional musician heroine, alone in the old family home, plays her violin, then quickly stuffs it back in its case when interrupted, sure she'll never pick it up again for some time...
As a trained musician I went "ACK!"
No violinist would put their instrument away for an extended period without loosening both the strings and the bow.
A small detail, but I didn't finish the book.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Raine.
These are rather wonderful, are they not?
Think that last is an excellent example of a writer not thinking - even I know better and I'm not a musician - not thinking out fully each and every action the characters do, perhaps too focused on creating suspense or atmosphere or the internal drama of the heroine's thoughts.
And these can slip by a writer with disastrous results to their reputation, when a reader tosses the book in disgust.

EA Monroe said...

Hmmm... I wonder if Tantric Yoga works?

writtenwyrdd said...

I just recalled this hysterical romance I read wherein the female character was touted as the finest brewer of beer in the area. She brewed a batch of beer in a single night, lol!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

ROFLOL..Misswrite, that's not's priopism! And forget the Dr....go for an Oscar...LOL!

Dave said...

Mostly Star Trek (in all its various incarnations) causes me to drop my ability to believe a story. They tend to talk, talk, talk, and at the last minute -- POOF -- the problem is solved.

Cliffhanger endings also don't thrill me much anymore. Stargate SG1 on Sci-Fi TV is good at this.

I've recently put books down for (1) pointlessness, (2) overly dense British text, (3) TSTL syndrome, and last but not least (4) OMIGOD, it's fanfic.

archer said...

Unearned praise such as "The world-famous physicist." Yark. It happens a lot. Also sex scenes by people who obviously feel uncomfortable writing them, but write them because they think they have to. Michael Crichton writes sex scenes like that. You can tell he'd rather be writing about the technology of light emitting diodes.

writtenwyrdd said...

Tantric Yoga? At the risk of sliding into the realm of TMI, friends who practice it told me it's about, um, duration, not repetition. So, not the same thing, I think.

But don't quote me, I couldn't say from personal experience.

Bernita said...

Like,um, chakra-chakra-boom, EA?

Finest kind, Written!

Sounds like an urolic emergency to me, Bonnie.

I cheat with books with cliff-hangers, Dave. I go and read the end.
To much dialogue can be a problem with many mysteries as well.Gimme a siren going off or something.
I don't read fanfic. I suppose it makes a great learning exercise though.
TSTL will frustrate me every time. One of the worst sins to my taste.

Bernita said...

Yep, Archer, if they're going to put a sex scene in - they should do it up proper.Otherwise, high blah factor.

Me, either, Written, but I think you're right.

Sela Carsen said...

I've been snorting mightily, reading all these suspender-droppers!

And no worries, Bernita. He's -- to lower the tone even more -- "a man with a slow hand."

Erik, I can't think of anything to comment that wouldn't send me into a fit of blushes!

Erik Ivan James said...

Bernita, if I can't sell the bridge, would you buy:
"A night-flyer? No station stops...just one long ride?"

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, fanfiction can be quite educational. Good LOTR fanfiction taught me how to write slash, bad fanfic taught me how to not slash. :)

Jeff said...

I try to give the writer the benefit of the doubt unless the mistake is so blatant that it completely pulls away from the story.
I was reading a story once that involved a patient wearing an oxygen cannula. The writer went on to describe the ventilator to which it was attached. It doesn't work that way. I started laughing and immediately closed the book. lol

Bernita said...

It was fun, Sela! Good luck with fiction!

Dear me, Erik, immediately makes me think of that song "I'm the train they call the Spirit of New Orleans..."

Just goes to show, Gabriele, no writing effort is ever wasted.

Jeff, we all have fears we'll accidentally pull a boner like that.

Don said...

A book lost me in the first page once, where a motorcyclist lost control because a small rodent leapt through the air to get entangled in the front wheel. Maybe the author thought that something that could actually happen would be uninteresting. But to me that's a red flag for poor imagination.

Bernita said...

All I can think of is "mincemeat", Don.