Thursday, March 30, 2017

But Why Didn't You!?

With deepest, most heartfelt apologies to Miss Jane Austen:

And apologies to all blondes!
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an author, in possession of a good story, must be in want of a critic.  Whether that critic is a professional or not hardly matters.  The story, being the thing, and the internet, being another thing, critics and readers alike—both of which are often interchangeable—will assert themselves into the life of the author whether he, or on the most fortunate occasion, she, wants such insight or not.

There are, of course, two schools of thought as to how best manage such well-meaning intrusions.  The first, of course, is to politely thank the reader-become-critic, welcome their insight and sagacity, provide them tea and biscuits, and listen attentively, perhaps scribbling a note or two for later revisions.

The second, is to slam the door on the foot, nose and audacity of the critic, insisting, all the while, that the story was not meant for their rude, uncouth and unkempt hands, which had more acquaintance with dung than with soap and a good scrub brush.  After all, such a writer writes stories for themselves, and no one else—should others happen upon the story, trade hard-won currency for the privileges of reading it, that, in itself, is gift enough.

But why didn't he write it the way I would have written it?
However, there is a third school, quietly biding its time, waiting in the wings, humble and contrite.  When such an excited and excitable reader bounces within the earshot of the writer, asking questions of, “Why did your characters do this thing, when clearly the other thing that they could have done would have made more sense, although it might have ruined the rest of the story as you told it?”  Then, in the face of such tenacious zealotry, the acceptable answer a writer of this school may provide is, "Why not?" Even a reasonable, rational alternate explanation doesn't trump the writer-as-historian and the published chronicle of what did happen.

That is to say that history is rife with “what ifs” imagined by the general, if ill-informed public, and by the learned men and women, atop their ivory towers.  Two entire sub-genres of fiction—historical fiction and alternative-history—are dedicated to these very questions of intellectual pursuit.  This is not to say that the writer, either inside or outside these frames, is wholly without fault.  They are not.  But, indeed, some of the subtler questions of character dialogue, setting, and plotting should be allowed a certain reasonable suspension of disbelief.

Thus, for those who see only two schools of ability, it is the fondest hope of this author that a third, option has been presented and may, under the right circumstances, be travelled upon by writer and reader alike.

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