We’ve all seen it happen. Someone reviewing a novel by stating, “There’s romance in this, and I don’t like romance. One star.”…on a romance novel. Or someone attacks a book because they don’t agree with the content…and when you read it, you can’t find that content. Book reviewing is a tricky (and sometimes) confusing place, and today, Desirable Purity is discussing when criticizers criticize wrongly.
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Criticizing Wrongly by Desirable Purity
There are some scenes, meetings and happenings in fiction that seem a bit far from reality and some criticizers are very specific about it. Now, let me divide this post into three parts.
Difference between Unrealistic Sequences and Unique Moments.
Suspension of Disbelief
In this post, I’ll criticize the criticizing of new criticizers. Fine! You’ve never seen it happening. It’s illegal. It’s nasty. It’s immoral. Guys don’t talk like that. Girls don’t wear that stuff. Mothers don’t do that. People! That’s why it’s a story. What do you want to read all the time? Cliches? If these kinds of plot twists aren’t there that make you go, “What the hell?”, what good is the book doing to you? It’s fiction. Things ought to turn out that way. And let me tell you, these things do happen in real life. It’s just that you haven’t seen it yet.
Difference between Unrealistic Sequences and Unique Moments
There is a fine line between Unrealistic and Unique. Why do the new, young criticizers think that by saying that the scene didn’t look realistic, make them “professional”? I swear, some people think that.
Remember the fine line.
You’re allowed to say that the scene was far from reality when a guy is walking down the path, steps on a snake, snake hisses, the guy apologizes and presents it chocolates, the snake accepts them and says, “Thank you! But be careful before stepping on us or you’d have to spare some more chocolates.” Okay, now that was unrealistic. It doesn’t happen in real life.
I’ve come across people who call certain scenes unrealistic just because they haven’t seen them happening, or heard of it. A mother loved her child, but because she didn’t have money to keep it, she threw it in the river. And left to cry till her eyes bled. This is not unrealistic. It happens. People are like that. Maybe, you’re not like that, but some people are. (This behavior is called, “projection”: The person is convinced that his thoughts and feelings are the others—Psychology.)
A fine line between unrealistic sequences, and unique moments. Remember!
Let’s talk about Genres now. If the scene about the snake that I described above happens in Fantasy, it is acceptable. (Maybe not, because the scene is pretty stupid.) But the scene of a mother and her child can be in Romance, as well as Tragedy. You’re allowed to say that the scene was far from reality when the snake hisses and asks for Chocolate in the Genre of Romanticism.
In Fantasy, anything can happen. Looking out is necessary for genres other than Fantasy.
So, people! Before criticizing someone, think twice, because no matter how novice he is, the person has worked on it and asks for an honest review. If a moment in a genre other than Fantasy shocks you, it’s unique, not unrealistic!
Suspension of Disbelief
Wikipedia says, Suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief is a term coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative. Suspension of disbelief often applies to fictional works of the action, comedy, fantasy, and horror genres. Cognitive estrangement in fiction involves using a person’s ignorance or lack of knowledge to promote suspension of disbelief.
It’s the reader that has to belief what the author is making him belief. The writer has created something. He thinks that it’s different and so he made it into a story. Now, it’s the reader’s job to belief what is, not the writer’s job to keep giving him reasons. That one person, who’s criticizing, should be of objective thinking, and not support projection. That’s one of the rules. Subjectivity and Projection can cloud one’s judgement.
There can be scenes where something doesn’t look right, but that can be a part of “Show don’t tell”. Just because the criticizer doesn’t think that a person exists doesn’t mean he’s an unbelievable character. In fact, his deeds might be a part of building his character as something not shown just yet.
Then again, the reader has to be willing to suspend disbelief.
Munazza Bangash is a short story writer, but currently in the middle of writing a full-length novel in the genre of Romance/Psychology. Her first novel, which was a fan fiction written only for practice, gained her more than 100,000 readers.
When she isn’t glued to the computer screen, she’s usually painting her face with makeup, searching for it or buying it, or probably studying Psychology. Playing badminton or having a laugh with little kids. Being the worst cook and fashion designer, or maybe trying very hard not to gain more weight!
Easily reached at Wattpad: MunazzaBangash
Facebook Page: DesirablePurity
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7 thoughts on “#MondayBlogs: Criticizing Wrongly”
Thanks! As a book reviewer, it’s good to remember the difference between the opinion of the reader and what the writer really meant.
Great blog post, really grabbed my attention and resonated with me. I review a lot of books and go with the mantra “life is stranger than fiction,” so I don’t think the character wouldn’t do that it’s more about what emotions are evoked in me by their actions and the majority of the time I am intrigued by literary characters up read.However, (you knew there had to be a however) I am reminded of reviewing a book months ago where the main characters were newly qualified doctors who witnessed a road traffic accident and didn’t try basic CPR on the injured. Fine, it can happen but didn’t quite feel authentic, but when a number of medical anomalies followed, it just irritated me. I qualified as a medical doctor from Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine in 1998, so perhaps the anomalies stood out more to me than to a lay reader, I mentioned these in my review on Goodreads to be contacted by the author who stated he had first hand medical experience as he lived with medical students for a year. This did not and still does not concur with my understanding of first hand medical experience and I took time to explain my position of not being able to go with the flow of these characters, having been a newly qualified doctor some twenty years ago, but sadly the author was not open to any comments that interfered with his thought process and I politely bowed out of the conversation before he could become more offensive, in fact I didn’t bother going back to the comment thread. I am now more conscious of giving leeway to medical mistakes when I read but in all honesty, the basic errors could be easily corrected using Wikipedia. I am not expecting technical excellence in neurosurgery from every author but it doesn’t hurt to Google or even talk to a doctor/medical student for authenticity when you are choosing to write medical issues into a plot, where you are trying to convey everyday occurrences in the present time within the realms of standard medical practice. Good authors do their research, they don’t cobble together a mass of misunderstanding and call it first hand experience. I have read some truly wonderful books and am awed most of the time by the books I read so it is disappointing to me when a book “doesn’t feel right,” as I don’t want to read books I don’t enjoy.
I’m pretty sure the episode with the snake and the chocolate is in a Neil Gaiman story somewhere…or maybe it was a lamia.;)
Even in speculative genres, there’s a difference between events that are puzzling, even inexplicable–but which may make sense in context–and events that are simply counterfactual, even within the context of the story. Throwing a baby into a river may well be the former for the majority of readers, but unless the action takes place in Siberia in winter (or on Pluto in any season) there’s nothing violating the laws of physics, so it’s not unrealistic in that sense.
I often think of this issue not in terms of “realism” (a question-begging term anyway) but in terms of “rules” and whether they’re being violated or not, whether rules of human behavior or rules of planetary motion. Different genres have different sets of rules, and different works within genres have different subsets of rules.
The clunk comes when something takes place in a story that violates the rules as set forth or implied in that story, in that genre, without sufficient explanation, justification, or development. To use the example brought up by ajoobacats earlier, one could write a story where doctors react to the accident in an inappropriate way, but only if the gap between the reader’s expectations and the events of the story is addressed.
A doctor might freeze up upon seeing the accident, since it brings back memories of a similar one they went through, or lost a parent in, or caused because they were drunk. The doctor could recognize the victim as the man who killed his parents, or the social worker who separated her from her family, and decide they deserve to die. Heck, maybe they’re not in their home country and they’re not sure if they’re protected legally if they administer treatment.
There are tons of reasons why it *could* happen, if the author is fully engaged. Otherwise it’s not only a lost opportunity to deepen the characters involved, but an irritant to readers actually familiar with the rules in question.
A very good point Jeffrey and any given reasons for inaction would have been gratefully received by me as a reader grasping at straws to find ways to make sense of the events in a book that doesn’t ‘feel’ right, but alas the author would need to realise that the situation is an anomaly before giving us good reason as to why a character was acting out of the norm, which brings me back to decent research of the golden hour in trauma in the first place.
This is a great article. I nearly always look at the review of a book or a film that I’ve not heard of but has caught my attention just to gauge what someone else has thought about it. So often though the reviews are just not helpful or constructive, which is a real shame.
Thank you for coming on today, Desirable Purity!