[LMB] OT: Writer's tricks, expecting the reader to continue without understanding

Rachel anglerfish at gmail.com
Fri Oct 12 03:15:16 BST 2018


I'm about 50 pages into Too Like Lighting and I'm vaguely irritated with it
because I don't feel like I have a strong understanding of the world and of
what's going on. I wonder what determines an individual reader's tolerance
of this, and how specifically writers think about how to provide enough
information without making things dull or info-dump-y? I don't recall ever
feeling lost in Lois's books, but I also re-read them so many times that I
have surely lost any memory of what it was like to read them first? I think
that Lois makes use of Barrayaran discomfort with the nexus to explain
foreign behaviours, and makes use of non-Barrayaran characters to allow
Miles to explain the ins and outs of Barayarran culture.

I can think back on books that I've read and see a sort of continuum of
this. I did not like Neuromancer (which, granter, I read quite young)
because after finishing the book I felt like I STILL didn't know what had
happened. Things in Too Like Lighting are slotting into place, but I still
feel like there are too many things still hanging for me to keep track of
them. I think Fifth Season held a little more explanation back than Lois's
books do, but it was just perfect for me. Though I have friends who find
even Lois' books a bit confusing, and have heard complaints before from non
SF readers that they don't feel familiar enough with the language and
creatures of SF to know what's going on.

Do writers spend a lot of time worrying about this? And is the ability to
keep enjoying a book that is using unexplained made-up words until their
meaning becomes clear something that just comes with practice?

I suppose a side issue might be that unexplained new language interferes
with the flow state of reading fiction, and for those who find a primary
enjoyment in attaining that flow state (I do) that interuption is
irritating.


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