I am a member of a book club. I am not, however, a popular member.
We meet (online these days) every month and one member chooses a book. The following month we discuss the book.
But I just nitpick. I fixate upon small plot flaws and get hung up on what I see as inconsistencies. I waste everyone’s time with my quibbles.
For instance, in Jane Eyre Jane fails to recognise Mr Rochester (who she has lived with for several months and is falling in love with) who shows up pretending to be a fortune teller. She sits with him for what must be a half-hour conversation without seeing through his flimsy disguise. Perhaps she had gone temporarily blind. And deaf, as she doesn’t recognise his voice either.
In Frankenstein, Victor spends two years constructing his monster from off-cuts found in dissecting rooms and slaughterhouses. Surely these bits of flesh would have “gone off”. Or did body parts have particularly generous sell-by dates in those days?
And why don’t the Eagles, who swoop in and out of the plot of Lord of the Rings like a sort of non-speaking RAF, not just fly the ring into Mordor without all the hide-and-seek-with-orcs stuff?
It’s not just books. In many films, cops avoid being shot by robbers by hiding behind car doors that would barely thwart a pea-shooter never mind stop a high-velocity bullet. James Bond takes full-blooded punches and kicks that would cause irreparable brain damage yet rarely even sports a bruise.
My least favourite piece of hokum is when the goody has a fight with the baddy in mid film, and loses badly. They go away, have a serious think about something their dead granny once said, and then beat the baddy easily at the end of the movie.
Once I smell a plot flaw, or start thinking that characters in a novel are suddenly acting completely out of character, I can’t get it out of my head. I find it difficult to achieve a willing suspension of disbelief. Perhaps I lack imagination? Perhaps I lack poetic faith? Perhaps I have an underdeveloped sense of wonder?
This fault spoils my enjoyment of novels, films and TV shows. The other members of my book club (they are a sassy bunch) often point this out.
But surely a good writer can avoid glaring plot flaws? So long as a book remains within the bounds of an internally consistent fictional world, I am happy. I can immerse myself in a character who acts in a believable way, true to their previously described personality.
A good book is a well-constructed, ingeniously imagined, fully believable piece of writing. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Word of the week
Relating to dreams or dreaming. EG: “A novel should be an adventure for the intellect, not an oneiric sequence of inexplicable events.”
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