it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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reading protocols, or, how science fiction is like a murder mystery.

There's been some talk around the blogosphere and other places recently about reading protocols, and genre, and whether there are genre-specific reading protocols, and specifically about incluing, and what it is, and how it works.

And I just realized something today. Just now. Or rather, I've known it for years, but it just clicked into a handy catchphrase in my head. Inconsistencies are incluing. In mystery, they're a subtle way of introducing the clues that the reader (or the detective) will need to solve the whodunnit. (Crude example: John's wearing a blue sweater on page three, and a red one on page fifteen. What happened to the blue sweater? Well, it could be an auctorial error... or maybe he got blood on that blue sweater and had to change in a hurry.) In science fiction or fantasy, they're a subtle way of pointing out that a society or technology operates under different rules than our own. (Crude example: out of a pair of mercenaries, Bob uses a ray gun, but his partner, Celia, carries nothing but a dagger. Celia seems a bit under-armed at first glance, so maybe the writer is an idiot, or maybe he's Up To Something.)

I tend to treat my own fiction as a pattern of dots rather than a linear progression: here's a point, and here's a point, and here's a point, and when you stand back just a bit they make the picture. Linear thought, I am not so good at; I'm better at patterns and puzzles. (Possibly this ties into my almost total lack of a visual learning capacity; I am kinesthetic/practical, all the way. Hi! I have an inductive brain! Please stand back--this could get messy.)

And this is probably why incluing just doesn't work for some readers, because they notice the inconsistency, and rather than going--huh, I wonder about that?--they go, hah, an inconsistency! And it breaks the fictional dream for them, and they never can quite get back into reading the story and thinking, somewhere in their backbrain, about the question raised by that inconsistency (that clue, or inclue.) So it becomes an error, rather than a worldbuilding or mystery-solving point.

The problem is that sometimes these inconsistencies are intentional. And this is where both "authority"-- the ability to evoke the fictional dream and get the reader to suspend disbelief--and "author points"--the amount of rope the reader is willing to give the writer, with which to either macrame a story, or hang himself--comes in. In a published book, I suspect most readers tend to offer them the benefit of the doubt--a published book, especially by a known author, comes with a certain amount of author points implicit.

But there will always be the ones for whom the incluing doesn't work. And as sartorias said, I'm not entirely sure what the heck you do about that.

And I'm not sure if the ability to read for either of these kinds of inconsistencies can be trained for (ie, if it's a "genre reading protocol") or if it's an innate thing--intuitive vs. deductive brain.

I suspect reading a lot of Encyclopedia Brown mysteries as a kid may train for it, though.

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