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How much uncertainity will the 'general (Non-YA) fantasy reader' tolerate?

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In my current project my goal is to go for the following narrative style within scenes:

  • Show only what the POV-Char can see, hear,... sense.
  • Show their emotional reaction (through body-feelings, reflex movements and thoughts)

This means that there is absolutly no explanation for some things alien to the reader in my very first scenes. Example (not my mother tongue):

Next to the path winding between small bushes and trees stood a great old tree. A white hole was shining in its dark bark.
Peter skulked into the direction of the tree.
The hole in the bark was bigger than his head. Great talons had almost split the trunk in two. Peters muscles tensed and he clutched his spear, his hands suddenly sweaty and slick. What does a boneslicer do here in the North? Was it not supposed to stalk the waste far to the south?
He pried into the silent woods and kept walking into the shadows.

After this short 'teaser' the story continues with other events within the scene, and the creature that gets hinted at here will reappear two scenes later. I do not want any obvious narrator, commenting on events or explaining things to the reader.

My gut tells to keep trying (to write without infodumps or bits of information, which would not be experienced within the scene by the POV-Char) but there could be a problem with orienting the readers.
If all the scene does is creating questions within the reader, especially within the first part (~15%) of my project, will they just close the book, or try to find the answers?

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3 answers

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It is fine to keep the POV on the character and go on. The reader will find out things at the same time the POV does.

What you should do is to make sure they understand that every information is something the POV perceived, not some absolute truth. (you didn't state but I am assuming you are using 3rd person limited).

Everything should spin around the POV. So, in your text,

Next to the path winding between small bushes and trees stood a great old tree. A white hole was shining in its dark bark. Peter skulked into the direction of the tree. The hole in the bark was bigger than his head. The marks seemed like great talons had almost split the trunk in two. Peters muscles tensed and he clutched his spear, his hands suddenly sweaty and slick. He knew what made those marks. What does a boneslicer do here in the North? Was it not supposed to stalk the waste far to the south? He pried into the silent woods and kept walking into the shadows.

The one explaining things to the reader is Peters. Peters' knowledge, Peters' perception.

Addendum:

The narrator has access to the character's head. The text could say Peters imagination evoked the figure of the boneslicer and then describe it, with the emotional load Peters feels about the boneslicer.

Peters muscles tensed and he clutched his spear as he recalled the image of the terrible creature that left those talon marks. Tall, ghoulish, long-limbed and vicious. He came to his senses and felt his hands suddenly sweaty and slick. What does a boneslicer do here in the North? [...]

I don't even have to describe the entire boneslicer now. I can tell only what characteristics make Peters so afraid of them.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/48464. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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Your question is moot because you're overthinking your issue. There is no 'general reader' because we all live in different bubbles and have different knowledge bases. For example: I'm currently writing a political thriller. The characters are discussing FLOTUS, the ACLU, the NASDAQ and 401Ks. I am aware that 95% of the planet has no idea what I'm talking about. The same issues arise when writing medical dramas: the characters discuss whipples, sux, ex-laps, TBIs and other issues. If the reader has no medical training - they've no idea what's going on.

To answer your question: between ER and Grey's Anatomy . . . these series have over 700 episodes. In the UK the series Casualty passed 1000 episodes many years ago.

Anything the reader doesn't understand is jargon (whether of not word is a real thing). They will put up with it so long as its embedded in good story telling and the writer does not stop the story to explain.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/48466. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

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Showing physical reactions to things works for immediate reactions. But stories are not built on immediate reactions. They are built on the long term desires and goals of the characters. It is hard to show those just by moving your character around the board like a chess piece.

And immediate reactions are conditioned not only by the immediate event, but by how the immediate event affects the long term desires and goals of the characters. In fact, immediate reactions to events are not even interesting or informative except insofar as they cast light on the long term desires and a goals of the protagonist.

In other words, there are expected reaction and unexpected reactions. The expected reactions are those a normal person would have to an event in the absence of any reason to act otherwise. By and large, you don't need to portray these because the reader is already there. They have reacted to the event before you described the reaction, so you don't need to describe it, and your description of it is just slowing the story down.

The unexpected reactions are where the magic is. It is the unexpected reactions that make the reader ask, what is going on here? What will happen next? So it is the unexpected reactions that you want to describe.

But unexpected reactions have to take place in some kind of framework. An unexpected reaction with no frame at all is just random. It makes the character appear mad or the author incompetent. For the unexpected reaction to be meaningful, it has to occur in the context of a specific framework in which it raises specific questions. But establishing such a framework under the restrictions you have place on your narrative may be difficult. Not impossible, certainly. But it will be important to make sure that you are actually doing those things on which story depends, and doing them without testing the reader's very limited patience.

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