Monday, October 30, 2006

A rant

I'm famous for my rants. Okay, famous may not be the best word, but my cousin swears that he loves to read them. I haven't ranted yet on this blog.

Considering our theme, let me rant about writers for a bit.

The suspension of disbelief. Ever heard of it? It's that magical quality that lets a reader suspend their cynicism and real-world knowledge for a while and really get into the story, believe it's truly happening. It's essentially the holy grail of writer-dom. You want your readers so engrossed in your stories that they don't even notice they're reading, and they want more when they're done.

What it also means is that to a point, your readers will forgive the fantastic. When you're writing fantasy, they expect impossible things. That's what fantasy is, after all. Here's the thing though; there's a limit to their patience, and you can stretch their suspension of disbelief to the point where they honestly can't believe what they're reading. And that's a Very Bad Thing™.

Why on earth do writers ignore this tenet? While yes, it IS fantasy, and you are expected to do impossible things, why do they expect their readers to do things that defy all logic... even fantasy logic?

Here's an example: You know in the movies, when the hero's running along, and there's around a hundred bad guys shooting at him with automatic weapons, and of course not a single bullet hits him? That's where you lose your audience. It defies all logic that with that kind of firepower leveled upon one person, SOME of the bullets don't hit!

A recent post on the NaNo forums asked about the age-old king vs king battle, and I couldn't help but roll my eyes. I mean, think about it. Two guys, in big crowns, finding and battling each other on the battlefield. Awesome, dramatic scene, right?


  1. How do they find each other? Battlefields are messy, dusty places, and unless you've got a helicopter, you can't see over everyone's heads. Unless the other guy is phenomenally stupid and is walking around with a flashing neon sign held high over his head that says "KING HERE", it ain't gonna happen.
  2. You think enemy soldiers are just going to let a king by? Dude, that's a serious bonus. Coming to their own king with the other king's head in tow is serious notoriety. They're going to try their level best to kill the big fat target.
  3. The heroic circle of knights fighting through the army. No. Just, no. Even elite warriors with skills far beyond mortal men can and probably will be overcome by sheer numbers. Throw enough warm bodies with sharp pointy objects at someone, they're bound to get stabbed. See above: it's the machine gun effect. enough firepower will hit eventually.
  4. Okay, so, against all odds, they find each other... now what? The rest of the army is just going to wait while their LEADERS FIGHT? Don't think so.
  5. Guess what's going to happen when you kill one or the other? The other army isn't going to drop their swords, gnash their teeth and wail in mourning... they're going to be pissed, and they're going start hacking at things. Sure, they might cut and run, but that assumes that there's absolutely no one on the other side with brains (and guts) enough to take up the crown and take charge. Kings don't stay kings without good retainers.

Basically, think hard. Just because a scene is cool and dramatic doesn't mean it makes a lick of sense. All that traveling by horseback in the wilderness for weeks sounds logical until you realize that you have to feed, clothe, and bathe all those people.

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