I tweeted the other day (ok several months) ago, that I had come to a realisation about why I just don’t like some stories. Everyone raved about Anita Heiss’s Tiddas, and was talking about how they related to the story about a close knit group of girlfriends. I love Anita and bought the book to read, but sadly I couldn’t finish it, and I thought over the course of a few weeks why that was.
It certainly wasn’t the writing, Anita is a fantastic author, her writing is superb and her senses of place and character are powerful, so it wasn’t that. Eventually I realised it was because of the key essence of the story – secrets.
It’s not that I don’t mind a book where the characters have to keep things from each other to keep each other safe, or because there are far more important things to do than discuss how a careless comment hurt their feelings at breakfast, but in a book where there appears to be no other reason to keep secrets from each other than to drive dramatic tension, I have a problem with that.
I’m not sure why this is a specific thing that bugs me about some stories. I’m sure part of it is being a person who is open and honest with those I care about, and that I don’t like keeping secrets from those I care about unless they’re fun secrets like surprise presents or parties. That said, I also hate surprises, so maybe that’s part of it too.
Stories are often told where an event happens and that drives the plot, or where conflict between people happen, and that’s the plot, or there is a journey or a game or things. Stories where someone is fretting about whether or not they should tell someone else this thing that is going on in their life, when for all the history as far as the reader knows of this character and this other person is that they would have told the other, irritates me. I believe it’s huge in romance books (another genre I don’t read).
It’s one thing that annoyed me most about [Rowena] Cory Daniell’s series The Last of the T’en (and now I discover she is also from Brisbane), sure initially the main character has absolutely no reason to trust the invader who demands she marry him, but they begin to understand each other, and there are all sorts of non-reasons for them to stop communicating. The romantic tension is driven by them failing to communicate and it annoyed me. The world, ideas, clash of cultures, rebel alliances, etc are all great, but why can’t they just talk to each other?
Really this is me having a whine because my I value openness in my relationships over many other things, and when I see fictional characters fail to communicate (this even happened in Glitch and that annoyed me too), I rage at them to just sit down and do the talking thing. Yes it is hard, it isn’t always fun, and can take time, but it is necessary and the plot will happen anyway because you have built interesting characters, in interesting places, with interesting things happening to them.
I love a great “us against the world” story. I love reading about people learning about themselves and other people. I love reading about defeating evil, or slightly evil, or “oops we thought that was the bad person”. I love reading about people who learn to communicate better with each other as they realise that one of them communicates in a different way to themselves. I love most stories. It turns out I am not a fan of stories about not communicating.
Today’s post prompted by this.