Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Trust in the author

We're watching Heroes. I've never followed it, but the dh mentioned how one character who used to be bad is suddenly good. And I'm thinking of how sometimes there's a revision of character history or personality partway through a tv series or novel (more commonly in a tv series, as that's rolled out episode by episode, not all the chapters at once as in a novel).

I was thinking of how important it is to establish trust when you're going to make some twist. That is, the reader/viewer has to believe that this isn't just a screw-up, that she shouldn't turn off the TV or throw the book against the wall, but rather hold on, keep reading/watching, to find out how this works out.

So how do you establish that kind of trust? How do you get the reader to believing that you will in fact resolve this satisfactorily?

(Now I'm thinking that the even harder task would be keeping the reader reading withOUT trust-- thinking you've done something crazy, jumped the shark, betrayed the great traditions of Western fiction, etc.-- but your voice or antic plotting or characterization or SOMETHING is just so good, she keeps reading, and the perfect ending, the intricate but perfect resolution, is that much more exciting and satisfying because she doubted you. :)

Alicia

10 comments:

rachelcapps said...

Ooh, this is so Cassandra Clare.

When I finished the first book, I felt winded by the twist. Disheartened and disappointed. How could she do that her two main characters! Then, simply because it was the first book in a trilogy, I picked up the second book believing, trusting, that she could not have had that agonising twist without turning it about in the next two books. I was right. Phew!

I noticed, in the second book, that she dropped clues along the way that rewarded my trust. I wouldn't have kept reading if not for those clues.

Jami G. said...

Alicia,

Ooo, good question. I hope I've got this figured out because it happens in my WIP. :)

I have one chapter to establish my MC as "good" (not perfect, certainly, but "good"). Then she changes to bad and engages in some behavior that would usually be a no-forgiveness situation.

So, how do I get the reader to trust that she's still worth caring about? In the first chapter, I almost went overboard with the sweetness and showing of vulnerabilities, etc. Then I show her being set up for something bad. So the reader knows this change is something beyond her control. I hope they'll keep reading to see how she regains "herself". It's resolved in Act 1, so the readers shouldn't hate her (or me!) for too long. :)

Jami G.

Edittorrent said...

I think, Jami, the most important thing is to let the reader pose the question of "why?"-- don't tell too much, but maybe make some hint that under ordinary circumstances, she wouldn't do whatever.
A

Edittorrent said...

I think, btw, that the key is to establish trust in YOU, not necessarily the character. Rachel said that she trusted that the author wouldn't do her readers wrong (for long, anyway). So Jami, how do you establish trust in YOU? That's the question, I guess! How can you get the reader to assuming that you know what you're doing?
A

Livia said...

So there's been several TV shows, where even though one or two characters jumped the shark, I still kept watching because there were enough other storylines/questions to keep me interested.

Jami G. said...

Alicia,

Geez, here's me on the hot seat - again. :) Um, readers will trust me because of my totally trustworthy face on the back cover? No?

Okay, how about this? By the time I've brought the readers to the end of the first chapter (and my MC's good-to-bad transformation), the readers will have already experienced my skillful foreshadowing and tight plotting, seen several story questions raised and then answered with new questions posed, and have the sense that everything is happening for a reason rather than that the story is just wandering around aimlessly. :) How's that?

Jami G.

Jami G. said...

Alicia,

And as far as the reader's response to the character, you're correct. I don't expect the reader to trust the character, but I do show her inner thoughts and struggle. If anything, I'd expect the reader to feel sorry for her, as they know this change wasn't in her control and wasn't what she wanted.

Jami G.

Dave Shaw said...

Jami,

It's a pity Murphy's buddy Murray isn't still around. I'm sure a preface from him attesting to your trustworthiness would do wonders. >;-)

When I read, I trust the author when the story is intriguing and maintains its in-universe plausibility. You know how to do that, I'm sure. (See, I haven't read a line, but I trust you already. Hehe.)

Jami G. said...

Dave,

Awww... Thanks! LOL!

Jami G.

sanjeet said...

she dropped clues along the way that rewarded my trust. I wouldn't have kept reading if not for those clues.

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