Monday, January 22, 2007

Why Socrates was so smart ...

Have you ever learned something that was so obvious, so very simple, that you were embarrassed that you'd learned it? Embarrassed that it'd taken you this long to learn it?

I just did. I figured it out last week in one of those a-ha! moments. I woulda blogged about it, but I felt so foolish. I'm not sure why I'm going to blog about it now, except that if I don't remind myself, I'm going to forget. And I'm here to learn, right?

So, with a blush, I have to admit that it wasn't until last week, after I read this post at Murderati and the comments by Barry Eisler and Mark Terry, that it finally clicked for me.

If you want to find an answer, you have to ask a question.

Shush! Are you rolling your eyes yet? Well, I said I was embarrassed! But until I figured that out, I'd been wandering around thinking I can't figure out this plot problem and I don't understand how to take my stuff to the next level.

Surprisingly enough, as soon as I turned those statements on their head and rephrased them as questions, I started being able to answer them!


It got me to thinking, though. In all my schooling, I was only ever told to ask a question during science projects and thesis papers. Which puts me down to about ten questions I asked (aside from the random, little ones) in my whole educational career.

Maybe, instead of assigning a student to answer twenty questions as homework, we should have students come up with twenty questions as the homework. The answering is usually easy, once you've asked the question. And learning how to ask questions is much more important than I was ever led to believe.

My question for the day? How do you, as an author, pull critical readers out of their analytical approach and send them racing through your book as entertained and engrossed readers?

11 bonus scribbles:

Edie 1/22/2007 04:26:00 PM  

Good question. (See you are asking questions.*g*) I think we have to write so compellingly that they want to keep on reading and suspend disbelief.

I'm judging a contest right now, which means I'm reading it with a critical eye. One entry was so good, after the first page, I stopped my critical eye.

I wish the rest were, but no such luck. :(

Kate S 1/22/2007 06:56:00 PM  

Good question. When I have the answer, I'll get back to you. :)

Though I will say this, based on my own observations and many conversations with my brother on the subject: the book has to be LOGICAL. That might sound odd if the question is how do you get them out of their analytical mind, but I think what pulls me INTO analysis stage is when I detect inconsistencies and flaws in logic.

The book can be as fantastical and "out there" as it wants to be and keep my attention and suspend my disbelief, but if it has a flaw in the logic, or if the world building/magic is inconsistent, it will pull me right out of the story; and if the flaw is large enough, make me unwilling to read further.

But when the unbelievable is believable, when the story flows seamlessly and the "rules" of the world don't change suddenly without explanation, I can keep reading without giving it a second thought.

spyscribbler 1/22/2007 07:18:00 PM  

Edie, I learn far more from judging than what I impart, I'm sure. I'm so grateful I get to do it!

Kate, I think you're on to something! I hate when that happens. Even if the rest of the book is awesome, it feels like one of those pimples on a pretty face. You just can't stop looking at it!

The Dark Scribe 1/23/2007 12:13:00 AM  

You edit. And edit some more.

At least, that's what I do. Usually, everything that comes out on the first draft entertains me (if it doesn't, it usually doesn't survive more than 24 hours). But I'm invested...more so than readers, especially near the beginning. So that's when the proverbial red pen comes out and starts its bloody work. I'm sure I could slice and dice even more than I do, too.

My first drafts are usually heavy on characterization, but that's just my way of fleshing out the people populating the limited real estate of my mind. Once I know them intimately, I can start to tighten up the story, to push my characters to their limits (and beyond, hopefully), and when I'm done with the ninth or tenth draft, the story is exciting and fresh and fun.

And sexy. Because sexy sells :)

Great post!

Christina Rundle 1/23/2007 12:30:00 AM  

That is a good question. I'm not published yet so I haven't had many readers besides what I posted on the internet a while back. Those few readers were so caught up in the story that when an event took a turn for the worse in the story, I got hate letters. I guess I was just pleased with the results of their affection towards the characters created.

That is a really good question though! I tend to be a critical reader and it takes a few pages and sometimes chapters for me to cling to a character. It is the characters that pull me from my critical stage into the, "What's going to happen next," stage where I just can't put the book down.

Bernita 1/23/2007 08:09:00 AM  

"How do you, as an author, pull critical readers out of their analytical approach and send them racing through your book as entertained and engrossed readers?"

If I knew, I'd do it.

JLB 1/23/2007 11:30:00 AM  

I think what I like even more than the "aha" moments, is eating the humble pie afterwards. There are some really important lessons in my history that came from chance encounters with a bit of information, or an unlikely teacher, who helped remind me not to take myself so seriously, and remember that I don't know nearly as much as I might hope.

As for your question... I'm not a novelist (*yet*), but when it comes to my poetry - I think I take the tack of "if this bores me, it's going to bore my readers." I don't like to cut any straight lines or direct routes. I keep things interesting by sending the reader along the side roads, distract them with a pretty flower in a ditch, and then truck on back to the highway with the headlights off, tossing handfuls of cake crumbs out the window as I go... Let them find their own way home. ;)

Brett Battles 1/23/2007 04:09:00 PM  

I visit each reader in their home and hold a gun to their head as I yell, "READ FASTER!"

Works like a charm.

spyscribbler 1/23/2007 05:08:00 PM  

The Dark Scribe, I hope you're right about sex selling.

Christina, that's not only a good way to look at it, it's a good sign! It really does show they care, and that's the hardest part!

spyscribbler 1/23/2007 05:12:00 PM  

Bernita, I feel your pain. And lolol, Erik.

LOL, JLB, I can see why you're a poet. You do visuals with words so well.

Oh BRETT! You're bad! And that's absolutely hilarious!