22 February 2008

Books Don’t Work Like That

TV Tropes offers fiction writers the useful Rule of Cool:

The limit of the Willing Suspension Of Disbelief for a given element is directly proportional to its degree of coolness. Stated another way, all but the most pedantic of viewers will forgive liberties with reality so long as the result is wicked sweet and/or awesome. This applies to the audience in general, as there will naturally be a different threshold for each individual in the group.
There's also a corollary, the Rule of Funny: “Any violation of continuity, personality, or even physics is permissible if the result gets enough of a laugh.” And I'm going to add my own, the Rule of Happy: “Violations of logic can often be forgiven if they bring about a happy ending.”

I think all three rules apply in prose fiction as well as moving pictures, but, unfortunately, at a much lower level. Television shows and movies control the pace of the information they convey, so Cool and Funny can carry viewers past lapses of logic before we have time to think too much. But readers control their own pace. They can stop, reread, and think. And thinking can be the enemy of Cool.

No comments: