Thursday, 17 July 2014

Holy Crucial Moment!

I’m reading a book. 

If you’ve read it, you’ll know which one I’m talking about, but if you haven’t it’s not important. For the purposes of this post I shall call it Batman and Robin. It’s an intriguing story about first love in which the two slightly off-beat, weird, non-conformist teenage protagonists might or might not get it together.

Love's young dream
The thing is, I was enjoying Batman and Robin very much. It’s sweet, subtle, and clever. And there’s a slow dribble of back-story from which a rather disturbing and heart-breaking picture of Robin’s horrible family life emerges. I was hooked and completely emotionally involved . . . until the moment when some unlikely thing happened.

Briefly, Robin hears gunshots in his house and, terrified, climbs through the bedroom window to phone the police from a neighbour’s house. But when the police arrive, they send HIM back in through the window (to where the gunshots were) so that he can open the door and let them in…

"Holy Catastophe, Robin.
We have to save this plot!"
And I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe this would happen. Wouldn’t the police be calling up armed support? Wouldn’t they be looking after the young Robin? Wouldn’t they be the ones climbing through the window to remove his younger siblings to safety? It's unbelievable and I can't understand how this could have got through the editing stage. What's more, I don’t understand its purpose in the narrative, other than to set up a situation in which we know there is the potential to be shot in Robin’s house. Surely there are better ways of doing this?

Suspension of disbelief is essential for a story to work, whatever the genre. If readers are to invest emotional energy and involvement in our stories, we (the writers and editors) must eradicate anything which seems implausible and gives them reason to question our words. Big no-nos include:
  • Getting facts wrong
  • Inconsistency (with character, plot or setting)
  • Characters failing to react
  • Coincidence
  • Lack of clarity
  • Plot holes

I’m not entirely sure which category Robin’s half-baked policemen fall into – it’s somewhere between 'getting facts wrong' and 'plot holes' – but I’m afraid they have ruined the book for me. Disbelief is no longer suspended. Disbelief has been set free from its cage and is now crashing through the rest of the narrative wearing critical hobnailed boots. Disbelief has created a gaping chasm in which I am forced to question the mechanics of the text.

My emotional commitment has disappeared and I am lost.

Do they or don't they?
I'll never know.
Do they or don't they? I might not even bother reading to the end; which means of course, I’ll never know if the Holy Love Birds finally get it together.

But really, am I bothered?



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