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draft 2: day 7 – why things happen, and when to explain them

another 12 pages so far this morning, and hopefully a few more after i post this.

i typed up the pages with the the main catalyst of the book in yesterday’s work, and today Kelly is struggling with figuring out who and what to believe. i’m having some uncertainty again about how much to tell, how much to show, and how much to leave out. there are maybe a couple things that i think need to be told in this section, but i try to focus on the showing wherever possible. however, i am struggling with how much i can expect a reader to pick up on, take on faith, or simply refuse to accept. for me, i love stories (books/movies/etc.) that frustrate me at the beginning, because a character does/says something out of character or seemingly impossible or ridiculous, only to reveal at a later point a very valid and believable rationale for that character’s actions/speech.*

therefore, i like to do the same. not all motives are spelled out in bold letters, not all characters act the way they might be expected to, not all events make complete sense when first experienced, but for each of these seeming ‘mistakes’ i have an intention, a purpose, and a rationale. an exaggerated, and morbid, comparison may be a village of people bombed in the first wave of an attack. these people may have no idea what’s going on before they die. they don’t get to know the answer, but there is one, albeit a terrible one. only the survivors get to get answers, though even then the answers are rarely complete.

but that’s real life. it is sometimes said that literature tends to be a bit more tidy than that, because we seek closure and explanation. i would agree with that, in many cases. i don’t want to read the story about the little boy from that village that dies suddenly out of nowhere from a bomb he didn’t see coming in a war he never heard about. without a narrative voice to paint the larger picture, either before or after the events, there is no purpose to the story.**
i don’t want to do this, obviously. i want life to make sense, and i think real life actually does, though certainly not always in ways i would like it to. so, i try to make sure my fiction applies the same world view. the seemingly random nature of existence can be explained; not always agreed with, but explained.

whoa, okay, that got a lot further afield than i expected it to, but i guess that’s part of my point (and my problem). i work very hard to make sure that kelly lives in a world that works the same way mine does*** and doing so means sometimes things don’t make sense as they happen. my conundrum, then, is avoiding an expository ‘tell’ or even a ‘show’ to explain why, in the moment, reserving the explanation for a more realistic later time. the question is, though, will readers buy it? will they agree? or am i the only one who likes being seemingly led astray for a while?

hm. guess i won’t be getting anymore pages typed up this morning…

* actually, we just watched Push the other night and there was an excellent example of this in there. while i enjoyed the atmosphere, and Dakota Fanning and Chris Evans really seemed to have fun together (even when not having fun), and the premise of the film’s world was quite cool, that world unfortunately was the downfall of the film, falling prey, in my opinion, to a lack of thorough consideration of the impacts of a word scattered liberally with people with powers, even as the film starts by saying that they’re all hunted. anyway, the scene referred to (oh so long ago) was the one that dealt with the black-haired girl (whose name i forget). i won’t say more in case any haven’t seen it, but i really liked the idea of it. unfortunately, though, this too falls through on a further consideration, but the intent was there!

** while such a lack of purpose may well be an author’s intended purpose, i’m not sure i could find any satisfaction (enjoyment certainly isn’t a word to be used in this context, but there are countless extremely popular books about the ruin of people’s lives, so enjoyment isn’t always the intention) in such a story. if the story were a tale of the casualties of war, the loss of innocence, the abandon of governments, then those themes would have to be built in, explained in some way, so the explosion of the bomb is seen in that larger context, even if not by the characters themselves.

*** well, except for that minor detail about the demons, obviously.

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