Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Discuss the Nature of Fiction

I haven't read any Harry Potter books, but I've followed the plot via the movies and discussions. In light of how the final book turns out, I've come up with the following statement:

If you create a world of fiction, set out the rules of that world, and then have the plot turn on a suspension of those rules, then that is a terrible work of fiction. Likewise if you purposefully obfuscate the rules of that world and then only reveal them at the last minute, that is bad form.

Discuss.

I wait
Yeah, I wait
For something good, for something great

10 comments:

Gina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gina said...

Your post reminded me of the tv show charmed. Every episode they basically came up with a new super power or new spell that, well, magically made the evil being be gone. That always seemed not right to me. I mean it is fiction but don't you think the rules/powers/spells should be set in the beginning.

3:31 PM

the marvelous patric said...

i'm confused... do you think harry potter broke the rules / made up new rules or not? because i thought it all came together nicely.

that said, yes you should use every part of the buffalo and don't kill an antelope to supplement your buffalo when there's tail left.

i think pirates was very guilty of this, especially considering they made 2 & 3 at the same time. had the heart thing been mentioned in the 2nd movie, to at least one character, the new rule would have already been established.

really, it's about the drama.

CAL said...

Star Trek is the same way. How come sometimes they can beam people up from planets or crippled craft and other times they can't? But when the only option left to play out is death, suddenly the transporter can get through any previous barriers and rescues the away team. Similar situation with their fazers and communicators too. Of course, that's no reason to stop being a trekkie.

Ben said...

Am I invested in the characters? Do I care about their fate? Am I satisfied on some level with the ending (perhaps only at an emotional level)?

Yes, yes, and yes.

So, no, it's not a bad work of fiction. Rules, shmules.

And like you, I've only followed through the movies and discussion.

Matthew B. Novak said...

But I would contend that you should not be satisfied, even at only an emotional level, with an ending that breaks and/or reveals new rules.

the marvelous patric said...

that's really the thing, isn't it? it bothers _you_ that some people are still satisfied, because you can't be and you can't understand why they are.

back to star trek for a second... if they could always just beam away, there'd be no drama. there has to be a problem to overcome... like, they can get through some interference, but they figure out how at the last second. simple drama.

Ben said...

Sorry to get back to this looooong after the discussion was ended but....

First off, Patric has it precisely right about the drama.

Second, it's mighty presumptuous of you, Matt, to tell me what I should and should not be satisfied with.

Matthew B. Novak said...

First, I don't think Patric is entirely right about the drama bit. He's right that they need it, it can't just be some simple problem to overcome. But he's wrong that it's ok if suddenly the problem is just fixed ala deus ex machina. Because if that happens, then there wasn't really any drama in the first place, the hand of God was always going to come down from the machine and fix things, so all the trials and tribulations are completely meaningless.

Second, Ben, it's not presumptuous at all. It's the very reason we have critics. They tell us what movies/music/books/TV shows/food/farm equipment ("It's time to send John Deere and 'Dear John'") we should like and dislike. Everyone tries to convince other people to like the things they like and dislike the things they dislike. You do it all the time on your blog too. It's in our nature. It's exactly not-presumptuous.

Jared said...

I think all those posting comments on Harry Potter should really read the books. Being an anti-fan of anything overly popular...I kept my self clear of the books, movies, and any media coverage surrounding this saga...but...I finally got drawn in about a month ago when I friend lent me all of her copies. I read books one through seven in a series of 3.5 weeks...going into the task with much hesitation and doubt--I came out completely shocked at how well everything was connected and how intriguing the series was. It gets placed in my top ten, and so, I say to all those uninformed posters out there...read the books!!!