Saturday, May 29, 2010

Genuine Question: about novels

I know the obvious answer must be that I'm reading the wrong stuff, but why are novels so repetitive? It seems to me that a significant chunk of the long form is given over to stating and restating conditions and rationalizations that have already been decently established. The repetitive habit almost seems like etiquette, not immediately meaningful.


Matt Bell said...

i think there's some of that that happens as a natural consequence of the writing, because, unlike a short story or short-short, you can't possibly keep a novel-length work in your head all at once. So the writer has to remind himself too. But I also think that some of that is helpful to most readers, who might also not read straight through. So I think I agree with your notion of it at least partially as etiquette.

It also probably happens in every single novel to some extent, but the best books hide it in the art, or else are twisting and turning it enough as the book proceeds as to make it fresh each time.

It's curious to me that when I try to think of examples of this sort of "refresher," I struggle to think of it in the more unconventional books I've read recently, which, arguably, could benefit more from a little restatement than something more traditional, plot-based, or genre-inspired. (This is a broad generalization, and obviously can be almost instantly defeated in argument. But it's still my sense of things.)

Scott Garson said...

yeah i think it's for skimmers.... i can't understand skimmers. i can't understand people who write for them. i can't understand people.

i mean, read or don't read.

skimlit does kind of explain the fan fiction phenomenon. novelists lay out bold character maps. fan fictioners can work with or against them. (probably some of the fan fiction is better)

JR's Thumbprints said...

Skimlit? Wow, kind of like Skim Milk: Watered down for the common masses. As for repetition, the talented novelist is able to embed it in the characters, their point of view, and even the setting.