1. marcuslam
    Offline

    marcuslam Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2012
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    3

    A reader's responsibility

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by marcuslam, Mar 31, 2012.

    When a book contains a lot of characters or jargon, we can feel turned off. I'll admit it. Sometimes, if a friend tells me so and so book is too complicated, I might give it a pass.

    Recently, I picked up an old game called Final Fantasy V. These days, with the internet, there are wikis on books, games and whatever else. It's impossible to get lost. However, to challenge myself, I chose not to use the internet while playing FFV. Instead, I did things the old way. Drawing maps and jotting down notes with pen and paper. The effort is rewarding, and that led me to think, I could do the same when reading novels.

    I'm not one of those outstanding readers who can memorize thirty character names. In that case, perhaps I can just write them down and refer to them as needed. Just the process of writing down information helps me remember them. I feel more engaged to the lore by doing these things. Maybe that's the way these books were meant to be handled, or perhaps I'm giving those authors too much credit. I'd love to hear some opinions on this. Thanks :).
     
  2. Erato
    Offline

    Erato Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2012
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    A place called home
    If you're having to write down names to keep them straight, I think that means the author has introduced too many and made them too similar. When I was little I read the Warrior cats series (very bad quality, for the most part) and at first I couldn't keep al the cats straight. But what was good about those books was that after a chapter or two, I could list them all with no problem.

    Maybe one needs to write down names for some books, but that would definitely turn me off. I don't think a writer should expect that of a reader.
     
  3. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK
    I generally don't have troubled remembering names. My favourite series is A song of ice and fire with a cast of literally over a thousand named characters. There's only a few rare cases where I get confused about who's who. While this is in part due to a childhood of reading fantasy so I can remember dozen's of different characters, it's also because Martin has made even the minor characters distinctive and 3-dimensional (for the most part.).
     
  4. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    The author's responsibility is to make the characters sufficiently distinctive that the reader can easily keep track of who is who, unless there is good reason to blur the lines separating them.

    Tolkien's Merry and Pippin were practically interchangeable through most of the Lord of the Rings saga. He could have made them more readily distinguishable in the first chapters without in any way harming the story.

    Also, when you introduce each character is important. If you try to introduce them all at once, the reader won't be able to keep track. Even if several of them are first brought into the story together in an early scene, each significant character should have his or her own introductory scene that fixes that character in the reader's imagination.
     
  5. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    the only responsibility is the author's to the reader... a skilled author will not expect her/his readers to have to work at keeping the characters straight, or avoid getting tangled up in plot elements...

    so, marcus, i can't imagine those books were 'meant to be handled' like that... but if you enjoy doing it, it's all that matters, right?
     
  6. Kaymindless
    Offline

    Kaymindless Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2012
    Messages:
    281
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Beaumont, Texas, United States
    I... there is no way I'm taking notes while reading a book. Ever. I don't usually have a problem remembering a character, but that's because the well enough written that I won't. In a book, I keep track of the plot and the holes and everything. If I have to take notes to decipher what's happening, the author screwed up, not me.

    I've been playing through the final fantasy's recently (the early ones) and, really, the only thing I need those walk throughs for is finding the silly locations. I can now easily admit that I'm direction dumb, I get lost in video games and real life. In a video game I get to go, "what ever, grind!" and in real life I get to pout and go in circles while wasting gas. I'm not getting lost in a book, period.

    Of course, there are the times when I'm overblown by awesomeness and I get to stop and stare at the novel and go, "wait... OH MY GOODNESS!" and find myself tracking back the plot and images, figuring out what I missed. That's fun. But taking notes to keep it straight? No.
     
  7. Metus
    Offline

    Metus Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2011
    Messages:
    138
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Omega 4 Relay
    I don't think that the reader confusing a couple of people is always the writer's fault. Some people are pretty easily confused. However, if most people who read your book (or watch a movie, or play a game, anything) can't keep your characters straight without writing a list, something's probably wrong. But then, it's by no means a death sentence, because that J. Martin guy has tons of characters to confuse the newcomers to the series, and his books are amazing.
     
  8. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    Introducing characters within the context of through action, a scene, a friend/spouse/enemy/confidant/etc. of another known character is a solid way to anchor that character in a reader's mind.

    If the character hasn't appeared in a while, a gentle 'reminder' of who the character is within the context of the story (through dialogue, thoughts, actions, dress, etc.) is helpful. Remember, you as the author know the characters inside out. Don't count on the reader being the same.

    As has been said above, the writer's responsiblity is to the reader.

    Ever try listening to an elderly aunt tell a confusing story about people and relatives you've never seen, let alone heard of? One might be polite and listen to the elderly aunt. A reader (or an editor/agent) won't be so polite and move on to the next book.
     
  9. marcuslam
    Offline

    marcuslam Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2012
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    3
    Thanks for the replies. Indeed, it's unreasonable to expect readers to jot down notes like I did. I've never been famous for having a good memory, so that idea just occurred to me. It's actually pretty fun, though.
     
  10. killbill
    Offline

    killbill Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2012
    Messages:
    559
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    where the mind is without fear...
    I am exactly the opposite. Complicated? Well, it becomes a challenge of some sort to read and understand the book, specially if the author is critically acclaimed. I have to say most of the time I have been rewarded with reading fulfillment.
     

Share This Page