Consider, It Might Be Better Not To Know

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I just skimmed a review of a book where someone noted in the comments that overall they loved the series, even though they felt a little lost at times.  The comment struck me because the reviewer noted that there were some things they loved in this latest addition to the series, some things they  though were meh and others they didn’t get, yet the rating they gave was still pretty high (4 out 5).

I contrasted this with other reviews (or feedback/critiques) I’ve seen for other works online.  There’s a lot of ‘why this, why that, make this clear’ and it's posited as if any questions raised that don't make sense to the reader right away, are a very negative thing, when technically, the opposite may not be.
As a reader, you don’t really need to know everything on the first read through.  I’d even go as far to say as you really don’t want to.  You should know/understand enough that the flow of the story and suspension of disbelief is uninterrupted. You should be able to fill in some gaps with a few theories and guesses that make sense to the characters, world-building and plot.  But you really don’t have to know everything, right now.

Why would you want that? Where’s the fun and the intrigue? Often books resonate with you well after the story on the page is done because there are a few little niggles in your mind.  Sometimes those niggles are enough for you to write the author; sometimes they are the very thing that pulls you into the next book.
You know what one of my greatest joys is as a reader?: re-reading a story later and discovering something new—some nuance I missed the first time, or having a new interpretation of something because I might be reading it in a different mindset now, or with new knowledge gleaned from elsewhere. That delight in discovery would have been lost if the author had pedantically laid every mystery in the text wide open.  Not only that, but when the author fills in every nook and cranny of explanation it robs you the reader the experience of making that book uniquely yours based on your life experiences or what you may need from that story emotionally at that time.

Granted, if what’s missing from the text is causing frustration and confusion, then, yes, perhaps the author should have provided more clarity.  The take away is: enjoy not knowing for awhile, and accept maybe never knowing except for what your own imagination might supply.

On another note, yup, been absent again.  So the progress report is: the job hunt continues, it's no fun and prettymuch is a drain on any creative energy.
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Kathy Collier said...

I really enjoyed your comments on critiquing and agree with leaving some things unsaid or for the readers' imagination.

Good luck on finding a job. I understand how too much on the mind can affect the flow of words on the paper. Have a wonderful week.

vanessa jaye said...

Hi Kathy,

Thanks for dropping by and commenting (and for the good luck). Enjoy your week too!

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