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Thinking about [livejournal.com profile] anitaray's post about the ridiculous holes in the plot of DH and another comment in reaction to it saying it comes as no surprise to 'regular readers' 'cause plot isn't JKR's strong-point, I got to thinking about just how true it is that we all evaluate and form responses to books on quite different axes, generally without spelling out or even realizing what those are.


I mean, even saying 'I value complex/believable characterization over plot', it's quite likely I may value different aspects of it than someone else. In any case, it would be most correct to say that I vary what qualities I look for depending on the strengths of a given work. If a book is really strong in original or complex plotting or world-building, I'll probably enjoy that. If it's strong in magic or science fictional ideas, that's what I focus on. If it's got a central character I love, that's it for me, and of course if it's got a unique and beautiful style or flow, that gives me a lot of pleasure.

I probably have a more rigid/fixed list of pet peeves than any central focus in what I look for in fiction, based on the sorts of things my own mind is naturally drawn to and excels at noticing. Like, I always naturally note details of style, so I can empathize with a criticism of DH like 'I sat there and marked up her sentences with an imaginary red pen', because I've made a conscious decision to not do that with JKR's work. But I just breeze by most plot holes because my mind isn't naturally analytical in quite that way, I guess. Even if you tell me, I don't really care because it doesn't affect my personal reading experience. Just as I may very well leave threads hanging in my own writing, it would take something really blatant to bother me in a story, and it'd probably have to be directly related to characterization (like, 'omg why didn't Harry grieve/fixate on Sirius' death more??!' and 'how did he just overlook casting the Sectumsempra so quickly?' and so on). There are probably great numbers of people whose response to those issues would be a heartfelt, 'so what?' And, y'know, that's a valid response too, I think, as far as it goes.

I think this sort of thinking goes a long way towards explaining why critically panned works can be so popular in the mainstream and why crappy Harry/Draco fanfic gets so many raving fangirl reviews.

Usually, when people write actual essays defending this, they say stuff that gets on my tits before it gets up my nose, like 'ICness doesn't matter' and 'writing believably is for sissies and Mudbloods, so leave my wankfic alone you meanies!' (...or... not. you know, artistic license is important). It's not that it's not important, it's that we all read what are effectively different stories, such is the difference a change in focus makes.

Often enough, I find I cannot recognize the HP I love in people's critical responses, even though I don't actually think they're wrong in the particulars, for instance. It's like... we all see the same trees on some level, but the nature of human perception is such that this isn't as important as the subjective 'forest' we make by noticing some trees as 'foreground' and the rest as 'background shrubbery'.

A lot of it's that I think there are different truths; and in some ways, I value the way someone sees something with the eyes of love more than the way someone deconstructs that same things rationally, though this is a subjective preference for equally subjective response. I still think realizing the halfway objective 'true outline' prevents any writer or critic from putting their foot in their mouth and being completely stupid (mmm, yummy foot), but this, to me, is in service to the ultimately personal nature of reader's response. I think knowing why people love something can be as enlightening as knowing why that something doesn't work on a rational level, though these two things are useful for different purposes. I wish people were more aware of and specific about what their purposes were, too, futile as that may be.

There's a danger to taking either 'side' too seriously; the rationalist readers have a way of acting like the objective analysis is 'superior' and 'the only truth' by implication even at best, and the emotive readers have a way of getting defensive and proprietary about their idea of-- or more accurately, feeling about the text, as if it is 'theirs' and any cold/prickly analysis or deconstruction is an assault not only on it, but on them personally. And while I am most naturally of the second type, I've been on the former type's side often enough to know it's no fun beating your head against either part of the brick wall. :>

I think you can't really understand the whole of a text (canon or fanfic), especially in the fannish context, without bringing the readers' emotional responses and context into it. If you're a rationalist, without understanding the emotional impact of and intuitive reasoning behind the stuff you're critiquing, you're going to talk past most of the actual fans and only reach the part of fandom that's disenfranchised and not emotionally invested in the fandom/canon to begin with, so just like with [livejournal.com profile] anitaray's post, a bunch of people 'me too' with no real discussion or new meaning generated in fandom. It becomes a bit ridiculous, to the point where it's like, 'if it's this bad, why are we here? what the hell is going on? are all these fangirls just complete idiots?' And in fact I do think the fangirls think that's the implied message-- that they're idiots as much as JKR, for being drawn in, right, for caring.

Conversely, just as I said in the recent post about how if you're not a canon!whore to some extent, or at least if you don't care about the nitty-gritty believability issues in relation to actual canon, your fic is going to suck. This sort of statement on my part is mostly addressed at the second type of fan, the emotive reader; this is because that's the reasoning I use on myself. "Reena," I said to myself once. "Reena, if you don't actually read the books, no one is going to take anything you say seriously. You realize this, right. Just checking." And lo, a lightbulb went on in my head. :P

It's fun to coast along, doing whatever the fuck you want and 'to hell with canon', until you crash-land on an alien planet filled with purple spotted wildebeests raping Harry's mom while eating cotton candy, and you ask yourself-- you ask yourself, 'what have I done? who the fuck are these people? and where, oh where are my PANTS??!' and so on. It's just not good for one's sense of sanity & grasp on reality, you know. It's good to have a few logical boundaries act as a filter both to one's writerly desires and even one's imagination. Otherwise, no one will know what you're talking about, basically, unless they too dream of purple wildebeests on Mars raping Harry's mum.

Which. I don't know, it gets a bit lonely out there, really, spewing stuff that no one understands 'cause it's too self-referential, too divorced from its 'actual' context, too stylized, too convoluted and just too damn weird. Ahem. But maybe that's just me.

~~

ETA: I regret my misguided terminology. All I can say is that it depends on you just 'knowing what I mean'. -.- I'll try to never generalize about people thoughtlessly in the future.

Date: 2007-09-16 12:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] worldserpent.livejournal.com
Yeah, that's what I'm saying, it's not necessarily "irrational" in that you can say that all emotional responses are irrational, and generally fiction is supposed to primarily engender an emotional response anyhow, and logistically, I agree that it's really a subjective thing whether a plot twist is too simplistic. Although, is a story failing for a reader an emotional or rational thing? Subjective or objective? I would say that it simply depends on the situation, but ultimately storytelling rests on subjective and emotional grounds, but that there is enough commonality between people culturally for this to take on the appearance of objectivity if certain standards are accepted, yet the acceptance of these standards may in itself be seen as subjective.

I agree that all kinds of people may be close-minded. Actually, I think the opposite of love love squee is actually hate hate denunciation.

Hmm, what do you mean people can't be logical/reasonable and true to life? Just because someone's actions aren't reasonable doesn't mean that they can't be explained, I think. The explanation might be wrong or right, but it's actually, IMHO, not that difficult to explain why people are defensive squeers. We've seen it a dozen times on fandom wank. /shrug

Date: 2007-09-16 12:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yourpoison.livejournal.com
Well... taking the objectivity level of lit-crit and the standards employed within it... I think that's really the central issue, actually. There are people who think you can talk about books and take these (subjective) standards as rules and then view eventual canon deviations from the quality standards as disappointing or 'wrong', or you can defer to the author and primarily 'enjoy what's there' happily, etc, even if you can write subjective/rational essays on those feelings. That person would still be coming from a different place to start with. A bunch of people are insistent about the 'rules of engagement' inherent in storytelling. And a bunch of other people are more lax and focused on their (subjective) preferences/beliefs rather than external (objective) truths/untruths as they see them, at least. Difference in focus moreso than a totality of nature, basically.

What I meant isn't that people's specific actions are difficult to explain (especially not in general)-- perhaps I should be more clear, in that I'm normally talking about myself unless I clearly state I'm making a global (rational?) statement :> I meant I was having a hard time because of various muddling factors present, mostly to do with working with objections that were true yet incomplete. The difficulty is more to do with untangling either misunderstandings or instances where I couldn't express my thoughts well enough. It's not just about wrong vs right when the person can't necessarily state their opinion fully and completely, nor even decide exactly where their opinion finally rests (since they're in the process of forming it). In my defense, though, I was referring to a more complex and wide-ranging subject than the detail about 'why people are defensive squeers', which I already mentioned in my post briefly :>

Ah well. Perhaps I'll be more lucid in the morning.

Date: 2007-09-16 12:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] worldserpent.livejournal.com
Well, I think in some ways, the authors also buy into these standards, and appear to be taking them as part of the rules. But then they become inconsistent to themselves, and that especially is when readers get annoyed. I think it also is that there is not necessarily one set of rules, there are several, and they differ on their preferences.

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