Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Miss Communication

Sorry I've been so MIA lately. But the good news is that my revision is in and my agent sent me the excited response from our head of foreign rights and, let's just say she was really excited. Which was very encouraging to me. That first ed letter that tells you everything big that is wrong with your book can--even if you agree with it--be very discouraging. But I am so happy to have the first round done and for my agent to have so nicely reminded me that there are a lot of people who are excited about my book!

I have been reading my very first taste of fan fiction lately by the lovely and extremely talented Sarah Rees Brennan who I am going to ride into the sunset with some day.;) So after following this particular story for several months, I came to the mistaken conclusion that I like HP fanfic. So I went in search of some more.

Note to other readers, liking an author does not necessarily translate into liking a genre.

I started reading this rather interesting story but got totally stuck when it became painfully obvious that there was a question in the two MC's relationship that they should be asking, but were not. I skipped to the end and, just as I suspected, the reason they were not asking said obvious question was that it was part of the Big Reveal(TM) at the climax of the story.

No other reason.

I hate that!

It reminded me of an experience I had in college. My husband and I have a really weird courtship story, but suffice it to say, we were promised for about a year and a half while he was in another part of the state and for most of that time we could neither call nor write letters. So he wasn't really a part of my daily life, but I didn't date anyone else and I wore a promise ring on my left hand. I did a lot of theatre in those days and I was in the show with this guy who I really hit it off with. That was hardly unusual for me. I have always had mostly guy friends--I had a best man at my wedding. I didn't think anything of it. We hung out outside of the theatre occasionally and went out to Chinese once, although we did go Dutch. So one night a bunch of us were sitting around talking at the theatre and I said something about my boyfriend (I can't remember now, I may have even said fiance . . . but regardless . . .) This guy came unglued! Turns out that because of the Chinese event, he thought we were dating. (There was no hand holding, no hugging, certainly no kissing. I didn't think it was dating.) I didn't realize I had never mentioned Kenny before.

But what really bugged me was that he hadn't asked. Don't you always check and make sure before starting a relationship? Especially if said person is wearing a ring? And particularly in the theatre where we tend to be a little more *ahem* affectionate than in many other fields.

So anyway, drama (no pun intended) ensued, he couldn't keep his personal feeling off the stage, and he single-handedly almost ruined every scene we were in together. It was a huge fiasco.

And why? Because of a very silly refusal to communicate.

Miscommunication is a common conflict in any kind of novel. Why? I think it's because it resounds so easily with so many readers. We all miscommunicate things all the time. We say something wrong, forget to say something right, or totally misread a situation all together. I'm not saying we need less miscommunication in our fiction, I'm saying it needs to not be silly.

I have read a lot books (and I'm sorry to say that romance is particularly guilty of this) where a strong, destined, completely fulfilling and trusting relationship is blown to smithereens (I love that word) because one of the MCs overhears the wrong conversation, or reads a note that they assume was written by the other MC, etc. Do they stop, think rationally, and ask the right questions? No! They fly of in a huff and commit the Unforgivable Act(TM) creating more turmoil and heartache that, understandably, stresses the relationship. (Almost without exception, some hot sex will make things right, but still . . .:))

Just once, when everything is cleared up, I'd like to see the hero or heroine stand there blushing and say, "Well, I feel stupid." Because that's what they are!!

There are plenty of way to have conflict via miscommunication. One of the best is fear of communicating because that can be linked to so many of our own fears as readers. Fear that communication will lead to rejection, or hurting someone you love, or damaging a friendship, etc. Or how about inability to communicate because of language, distance, cultural differences, etc. I can buy any of those.

But not asking the obvious question/s? That drives me nuts!

Which is why when Tara pointed out about six obvious questions my MCs should have been asking, I was happy to change thing so that they did. My story is stronger for it and I guarantee yours will be too.

Now where was that pink elephant?



vera said...

Very interesting. How about Avoid Communication to Avoid a Confirmation of the Obvious? That's what I've been dealing with lately. And yes, I also find it frustrating when MC's do not make the effort to ask the obvious questions and thus seek the right answers. It makes them seem very stupid and not worthy of my time. I'm a little less gracious than you: I don't skip ahead; I just close the book and pick up another.
Keep up the good work! Sounds like your book will make some serious waves.

Anonymous said...

Ifeel that way too. In fact it makes me angry at the writer when she thinks I am going to swallow the plot of stupid people. The girls leaves her love, city and all and goes and lives for 5 years in a town down the street just because she read a note that she new was written by him. Oh Brooooother! I too close the book and say to myself, Sheesh, I can live without that nitwit. I don't care if they never get back together. And because I quite reading it, they never do! Trina

Maprilynne said...

"And because I quite reading it, they never do!"

And isn't that the perfect revenge?;)

angelle said...

oh i get so pissy and angry when people in stories/movies/tv shows start drama because of refusal or inability to communicate. i'm like ARGH!!!!!!!!! just TELL him, or just ASK! why can't you CLEAR IT UP?? then we wouldn't have all this long drawn out drama. ugh ugh ugh.. it just makes me mad and i have no patience for it.

but i realize it's sometimes necessary for a plot.. i just wish that the reasons for not being communicative were then deeper, like deeper-seated psychological issues. not just sheer stupidity or pride. that just makes me mad.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I so agree. I've wanted to throw more than one book against a wall when such flimsy conflict is created.

Bracken said...

Okay, this is totally off topic, but I wanted to thank you so much for your little mini-workshops on queries. I'm pretty much convinced that your lessons are what snagged me an agent. So THANK YOU for sharing your genius!!

Maprilynne said...

Bracken!! Congrats!! You have absolutely made my day!!! I am so glad to have been a little bit of help and good luck on your new agent selling your novel!!