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View Full Version : "Huh?" Reader's Anticipated Reaction to Passages in Your Prose.



Ken
10-08-2011, 02:39 AM
... are you sometimes unsure about whether readers will get implied action in a story you've written?

Huxley's, "Brave New World" -- SPOILER ALERT!

There's implied action at the conclusion of Orwell's "1984," for instance. Make that "Brave New World." The protagonist hangs himself at the end of the novel. It isn't spelled out, as I recall. All that is described is how his feet turn around and face different directions. I read the book in a high school class, back when, and most of the class didn't get what happened until the teacher explained things.

Sometimes I put implied action in my own scribblings. Then I start calculating percentages. I know that 60% of readers will get it and another 10-20% on a second read if they grant me that. There will still be 20% or more who will go, "Huh?" though, making me have doubts.

Anybody else? It'd be interesting to know, too, about experiences you've had in reading novels by others and how you've reacted when encountering passages that leave you a bit mystified. That happens to me plenty. Usually I just shrug and read on.

rainsmom
10-08-2011, 03:35 AM
That's what critique partners and beta readers are for, particularly ones in your target audience. If they get it, I'm not going to worry about it.

JSDR
10-08-2011, 03:53 AM
Argh. You should put a spoiler warning in your title or something.... *grumbles*....

Paul
10-08-2011, 04:14 AM
if you write with a figurative reader looking over your shoulder, you'll go mad.

AlishaS
10-08-2011, 05:06 AM
I think this is something that can be answered by beta's and crit partners. If the scene, implied... is done well, and all your beta's get it, understand and don't complain, make mention, you are good.

I left out a scene in my novel, I felt it didn't need to be there as it was implied on more than one occasion what happened, and what not... It went through 5 beta's 4 of them said they missed that scene and wished that they new exactly what happened and experienced it through the characters eyes rather than implied through actions, other characters and what not.

So, I'm writing the scene... struggling with it, a lot, cause I left it out for a reason (I didn't want to write it lol) but the beta's and crit partners have spoken lol

Ken
10-08-2011, 05:32 AM
... thanks for the feedback. I can see the value of having betas with an issue like this. I'll consider that option in the future. Haven't in the past.

G'luck with the scene, Alisha.
Too late for that, Paul ;-)
Sorry JSDR :-(
Rainsmom, "Betas in your targeted audience." :-)

backslashbaby
10-08-2011, 12:58 PM
Target audience matters so much here, imho. I get 'huh' a lot in general, but my target audience really does agree with me and like the subtlety or whatever you'd call it. Not on everything, of course.

Finding what's truly unclear and what is a stylistic thing is a constant task I have to do with the type of writing I like. I could just make it all very clear to every reader, but that's a different style. It's hard to know what to do, though. I go back to books I read and try to figure out if I'm following the same rules they are. I get the best feel for it by reading similar works, but that's no guarantee, either.

It's hard! :D

gothicangel
10-08-2011, 01:09 PM
[QUOTE=Ken;6624452There's implied action at the conclusion of Orwell's "1984," for instance. The protagonist hangs himself at the end of the novel. It isn't spelled out, as I recall. All that is described is how his feet turn around and face different directions. I read the book in a high school class, back when, and most of the class didn't get what happened until the teacher explained things.

[/QUOTE]

Time period of when the text was originally written is a big factor also. What is acceptable now, wasn't 50 years ago. Another good example is the rape in Tess of the D'Urbeville's.

Becky Black
10-08-2011, 05:28 PM
Are you sure you mean 1984? That's not how it ends, either explicit or implied, that I can see.

In the very last scene (spolier! Highlight to read!) Winston Smith is sitting in the Chestnut Tree cafe and the very last thing in the book is his realisation that he loves Big Brother. Nothing about feet. There's certainly implied spiritual/psychological death - he's no longer the person he was at the start, he's been broken - but not physical death.

nchahine
10-08-2011, 06:06 PM
Yeah, I must agree: I never got the ending you described from 1984. (SPOILERS) My understanding was that he was eventually going to be killed by Big Brother, but not that he killed himself. (/SPOILERS)

Anyway, back on topic: I think you can imply an ending or a passage in your book if you've hinted at it numerous times in the story, or if your readers understand your characters enough that they can guess how he or she is going to react.

AnWulf
10-08-2011, 09:00 PM
That's what critique partners and beta readers are for, particularly ones in your target audience. If they get it, I'm not going to worry about it.

I agree. I always tell my beta readers to let me know if any part confuses them.

I recently had one who said that she stopped reading the chapter because it was so harsh and unexpected. It is harsh and meant to be that way but she should have seen it coming so now I'm looking at rewriting sections.

OTOH, a male beta reader sailed right thru it without a quibble.

Ken
10-08-2011, 10:07 PM
Are you sure you mean 1984? That's not how it ends, either explicit or implied, that I can see.

... err, made an error :o
Sorry about that. The book I meant is Huxley's, "Brave New World."
I got the two confused.
Here's the concluding passage (SPOILER ALERT), itself:

"Savage!” called the first arrivals, as they alighted from their machine. “Mr.
Savage!”
There was no answer.The door of the lighthouse was ajar. They pushed it open and walked into a
shuttered twilight. Through an archway on the further side of the room they
could see the bottom of the staircase that led up to the higher floors. Just under
the crown of the arch dangled a pair of feet.
“Mr. Savage!”
Slowly, very slowly, like two unhurried compass needles, the feet turned
towards the right; north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-south- west;
then paused, and, after a few seconds, turned as unhurriedly back towards the
left. South-south-west, south, south-east, east.."

Thanks for the feedback AnWulf, Nchahine, Becky, Gothic, and Backsslash :-)

Good point about the year the novel was written being a possible reason for the indirect description of the suicide. (Squeamishness about the topic, in general.) It never occurred to me that that might be a explanation for Huxley's choice. Definitely something to think about.

I read Hardy's "Tess," but don't recall the rape scene in specific. (It's been awhile.) I did read a short story by Paul Bowles recently and that handled a rape scene very indirectly, too, in keeping with the times. It was from the forties. In fact if the rape wasn't mentioned in the preface I wouldn't have even known it had occurred. All that happened in the scene was that the protagonist brought a woman to a deserted lot and laid a blanket on the ground. That was about it!

I changed the passage in my own work this morning and provided an additional clue about what's going on in the scene. Now 80% of readers should get the action, which is enough.

Thanks again, everyone. I don't think I'd have made the alteration, so quickly at least, if it wasn't for discussing stuff here.

gothicangel
10-08-2011, 11:40 PM
I read Hardy's "Tess," but don't recall the rape scene in specific. (It's been awhile.)
Thanks again, everyone.

No, I didn't see it either until a Victorian lit lecturer pointed out that Alec drugs and rapes Tess [resulting in the pregnancy.]