segunda-feira, outubro 24, 2016

The Implausibility of Happenstance: "Children of Earth and Sky" by Guy Gavriel Kay



Rick in Casablanca notices the vast implausibility of happenstance: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Is serendipity a good thing in fiction ever? For me, one of the precepts of good writing has always been that coincidences are only permissible when the writer is setting up the narrative. Indeed, they’re often necessary: Circumstances have to come together in some way to launch an extended action. A sudden hailstorm brings man and woman together under the same awning, creating the necessary meet, and things can build from there, as it happened with Rick and Ilse. But, in my Tomus Primus of Good Writing wisdom says: “don’t use a coincidence to develop or resolve the plot.” It seems Kay forgot this cardinal rule. Happenstance is all over this novel. When the story actions start resulting from Deus-Ex-Machina instead of the characters’ choices, purposes, reactions, plans, and the like, something is deadly wrong, because these factors create patterns of cause and effect that enriches the lives of those same characters. The problem in wrapping up a story with happenstance is that it robs the main characters of their strife. Serendipity to get characters into trouble are great; Serendipity to get them out of it are cheating. When coincidence takes over, I stop caring about the characters, and the book dies on me. Kay is one of my favourite writers. I don’t get it. Ghost writing in play here? In my everyday life, the millions of things that whiz through my day never match up so cozily. And I don’t notice it when they don’t match up, because I don’t see them coming. The non-serendipity of everyday life goes unregistered because they’re so pervasive. In a novel the writer has to care of business, because I notice these things like a hawk. Close Reading at work.

2 comentários:

Book Stooge disse...

Never enjoyed Casablanca myself. I intellectually acknowledge that everybody else thinks it is a great movie but for myself it just never clicked.

Not much to say about Kay, as I don't read him...

Manuel Antão disse...

We all art differently. That's why it's art. What matters is what we do with it. And emotions play a big part, not just our brains. Thanks for sharing.