When is too much -- too much?

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When is too much -- too much?

Post by ebyss on Fri Apr 24, 2009 8:46 pm

I have a question for anyone here, but it is more for people who read fantasy books. When is too much explanation just too much. I have a friend that looked over some chapters then they started to ask all these questions about magic. Why couldn't they just levitate up to there and why couldn't they just do this or that.

Now, I'm asking this because I really don't recall a book (that I have read) that explained every stinking aspect of magic of what they could or couldn't do. That would ruin the whole world for me if every stinking thing was explained. I understand when I read a fantasy book with magic that magic is not a cure all or the book would be ten pages long.

For example; Harry Potter, the only thing I really remember being explained is that magic was forbidden in the regular people world. Okay, makes sense to say a quick thing for that. But they could use it in school. And I never thought why are they climbing all those stairs when the older students know levitation spells. Why is anybody walking anywhere? Why did they have to take a train to the school? Why couldn't they make the rift between the regular world and the magical world right at the front door of the school? And I never thought why is (what is his name Voldemor --the evil guy) magic more powerful, why couldn't the head master, all the teachers and rest of the good wizards cast some spell find where he is and then kill him. Because if I started asking all these questions to have everything explained then it ruins a rather good story.

So, I guess I am asking is should I explain more of the magic usage in my book or should I just leave it where it is. What do you as writers and readers think about this subject of drawing a line between explanation and just understanding?

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Re: When is too much -- too much?

Post by NaClmine on Fri Apr 24, 2009 9:29 pm

Fantasy and sci-fi require a reader to "suspend reality" while experiencing the story. For example, in the original Star Wars movie, I commented to my wife that there are no "sounds" or fire in space and all those space scenes with roaring fighters and explosions would not happen that way. For some of my scientist friends, those glaring faux pas were too much and they did not enjoy the storyline. I made a conscious decision to suspend reality and enjoy the storyline with its interesting plot and great side-adventures.

Some people do not suspend reality very well. Everything must sound "real" to them or they cannot become invested in the story or characters. They are NOT your target audience. That's an important point because you as an author must have a good idea about the general profile of your intended reader. For example, I allowed a friend of mine to read the manuscript for my current sci-fi book. He was very critical, saying that I did not provide a plausible theory that would allow spaceships to exceed the speed of light without any resulting time shift. He went on to say that any scientist at MIT would have trouble with the "science" presented in my story. My response was, "Don, I didn't write this book for PhD's at MIT. I wrote it for the same millions of people who loved Star Wars, despite its glaring scienfitic errors."

Now, if you allow several people who love fantasy to read your story, AND they all make the same observation, then you have some kind of action-sequence deficiency that needs to be addressed. But, I would not change a thing if members of my target audience read the book and like it.


Last edited by NaClmine on Fri Apr 24, 2009 11:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: When is too much -- too much?

Post by Garmar on Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:32 pm

NaClmine answered this so well that I can't really think of much to add. One thing concerning the busybodies that just have to know everything. I notice that JK Rowling had a few books published going into more detail about such things as how the magic works and genealogy of the characters.

I feel sorry for anyone that can't just enjoy a book for the story when it's well written and vibrant. Take Dean's book for instance; he has mentioned a few typos that got past the editing stage. I noticed these now and again at the beginning of the book. After I got into it I noticed very few and none at all in the last 200 pages. Maybe there weren't any. I wouldn't know because I was so engrossed in the story. And as far as any "glaring errors" you would have to be a graduate of MIT to ferret any out. And have your head up your ass to waste a good read being an egghead.

Ok. Rant off. cool

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Re: When is too much -- too much?

Post by MC on Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:57 pm

I usually have a little rant 'session' for the first 10 minutes about things not lining up like I think they should and then accept that it's just the rule of the book; therefore, relax and enjoy.
Even Queen of the Damned--where Anne Rice decided to give the reader oodles more explanation than most authors--didn't bother to explain everything completely. I occasionally had my "Well, why in the world didn't they just do ____ instead?" moments in it too.
I'm guessing your friends were just grasping at straws for way to offer you something to 'improve'. Your book must be really awesome, if that's all they had to nit pick.
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Re: When is too much -- too much?

Post by ebyss on Sat Apr 25, 2009 8:50 am

I wish you were an agent MC. Laughing

I gave just a couple of chapters to him just to see if it could draw him in as a reader and the fact that these areas concerned him and brought him out of the story concerns me.

I did answer him though, that if they could do all this stuff, then the book would be ten pages long. LOL!! They could just teleport everywhere and be done with what they had to do.

Thank you all for your insight.

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