Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why realistic novels wouldn't sell

a.k.a. Why people don't understand the way I think.

Recently, I started to re-read Raymond Feist's Riftwar Saga. As I was reading it, I came across the following passage:

"Follow that trail for two days until you come to a small valley. Cross it, and on the north face you'll see a waterfall. A trail leads up from there, and atop the plateau you'll' be near the top of the falls. Follow the river upwards, until you reach its source. From that lake you'll find a trail again moving upwards, again to the north. That is the only way to Moraelin. You'll find a canyon, which winds around the lake in a complete circle. Legend says it is the tracks made by the mourning Elf Prince, wearing the ground down around the lake. It is called the Tracks of the Hopeless.

There is only one way into Moraelin, across a bridge made by the moredhel. When you cross the bridge over the Tracks of the Hopeless, you will be in Moraelin. There you will find the Silverthorn. It is a plant with a light silver-green leaf of three lobes, with fruit like red holly berries. You will recognize it at once, for its name describes it: the thorns are silver. If nothing else, get a handful of the berries. It will lie close to the edge of the lake. Now go, and may the gods protect you.'

Right.

As I read that, I got an image in my mind of how that would go if I was the hero getting those directions.

"Follow that trail for two days until you come to a small valley. Cross it, and on the north face you'll see a waterfall. A trail leads up from there, and atop the plateau you'll be near the top of the falls. Follow the river upwards, until.."

"Wait, which side of the waterfall was it the trail?"

"The north side. Now once you reach the source of the river, you'll find a trail again moving upwards, again to the north. You'll find a canyon, which winds around the lake.."

"Uh, how do I get to the source of the river again?"

"It's after the trail at the north of the waterfall. Were you listening at all?"

"Sorry, it's just a lot of information. Any chance you could write this down?"

"Oh sure, I always carry a pen and paper when I head out to the woods for weeks. Because that survives really well in the rain."

etcetera, etcetera.

I've heard people gripe at times that engineers are just way too literal about things. But they just have no idea. There's a reason I'm much better at editing than I am at writing.

1 comment:

scamper said...

Can’t tell you how many times I’ve done the same thing. It’s taken me years — DECADES — to relax enough not to hang on every word. I used to get so frustrated! Now I realize that all you need is the gist of any given conversation (and a good GPS. ;)