[DWJ] Writing for the young (was Dumbledore vs. Snape)

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Mon May 14 19:03:24 EDT 2007

>minnow at belfry.org.uk wrote:
>> Well, you didn't bring HP up, Ika did, so you can't have *all* the
>> credit or blame for that!  You were replying to her throwaway comment
>> about "bad guys wear black", as far as I could make out.

and Mark:

>Well, yes, but that's the point, it was a throwaway comment, and I made
>it a topic.  My mistake.

We didn't *have* to jump up and down on your head... that was our decision,
not yours.

>> As someone who hasn't read Potter, I wasn't able to follow the argument
>> you made, but was it in effect "Dumbledore is fair and Snape isn't"?  If
>> so, I think people have been addressing it, mostly in terms of
>> disagreement.  If it was "we don't yet know what Snape's motivation is",
>> there's not a lot to say about that if it may or may not be going to
>> appear in a book that hasn't come out yet, so the most anyone might have
>> said about it would have been "True".
>My point was [it appears to me] that Dumbledore is working from data no
>one else has, and Snape assumes knowledge that he doesn't really have.
>This is implicit several times, and the plot hinges on it in Book Three.

Fair enough.  When I get round to reading them I'll see if I agree...

I have to say though that I find these all-knowing wise-ass folk who fall
off cliffs with their information unshared a Right Royal Pain, in life and
in fiction.  Heaven preserve me from the strong silent hero who doesn't
bother to tell the heroine to avoid going to lonely barns with what *he*
knows is a homicidal maniac and *she* thinks is her cousin Fred.  As it

>I can't imagine that there is anyone left alive who hasn't read at least
>Book One, or seen the movie, which was a fair, if imperfect, rendition.

You don't have to imagine: I haven't.  Definitely not the movie.  I have
heard, without the option, about ten minutes of one of the tapes, when I
had a child in the car who asserted that if she had nothing to distract her
she was going to be horribly sick... and The Doors were Not Good Enough.
In this scene it was assumed that somebody holding a wand must be the
person who had used it, on no evidence whatsoever and when a Truth Spell
would have been available to establish the facts...  Or that's how I
remember it.

I have to warn you that the only episode of Startrek I ever saw started
with a wossit about the Prime Directive, and proceeded immediately to "here
we are on a planet about which we know nothing whatever.  Oh look, there is
a humanoid creature running away from non-humanoid creatures.  Set your
phasers to 'stun' and rescue this poor fugative!"  No questions asked about
whether 'stun' for a human is 'sudden death' to an alien life-form about
which nothing at all is known.  No attempt to find out whether this might
be the local cops in pursuit of a criminal lunatic...

I'm inclined to ask awkward questions, you see.  If they are not addressed
in the story, then I think the author is not doing the job properly.  In
this respect I am not too far removed from the child I used to be, who
wasn't prepared to accept the "with one bound our hero was free" school of

>  I can't really recommend the book in terms of being literally* worth
>the time, but it is mostly well done, and, taken as a whole, a lot of
>fun.  (Don't ever forget, though, it's a children's book.)

Is that supposed to excuse poor writing?  If so, it's a *terrible* excuse!
When Kipling wrote for children he didn't let the standards slip; nor did
Rosemary Sutcliff; nor did C.S. Lewis, nor Diana Wynne Jones, nor Patricia
Wrede, nor Neil Gaiman.  Nor (you have your own list).

>"implementations" of archtypes e.g., Gandalf, or the myths about them
>are going to be imperfect.  It's no reason to avoid the story
>altogether.  Start reading now, and be ready for when Book Seven
>appears.  :)

Can't do that!  The rule is that I'm waiting until I won't have to wait for
the next one.  Judging by the now-eighteen-year-old, these books are going
to take me less than a day each to read: if she got through them that fast,
on first reading as they came out, I expect I shall too.  So I had better
start about a week before the last one comes out: that gives her time to
read the last one whilst I am on Book 6 and have it ready for me when I
want to keep on keeping on through.

>(I'm one of *those* people.  Ones who try to end the argument, but can't
>resist adding one more comment themselves.)

<sfx echoing stairwell>

"and a*nother* thing...!"

>*literarily?  Let us coin a word, meaning, "of or about something
>literary".  It's a bit of a tongue twister.

Lit'ry is the word for that sort of discussion and the lit'ry folk who have
it, so maybe "litrily"?  I don't demand lit'ry in my light reading, but I
do require literate (as well as coherent and self-consistent within the
world created: there are definite limits beyond which I cannot suspend my
disbelief).  Judging by the random four pages or so of HP I read when
someone was making a point on this list a couple of years ago (see comments
on mer-people earlier) I may decide that this is not a book to be set down
lightly -- in the Dorothy Parker meaning of that phrase -- purely on
account of my being a member of the Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty
To The Semi-Colon.

One thing has to be said for Enid Blyton: she had at least been taught the
use of punctuation at some point.  Her stuff doesn't demand a re-write
every couple of sentences, and I don't find that I have got out a red biro
and started absent-mindedly to proof-read it as I go along.  Formulaic,
yes, maybe, but not horribly constructed word-by-word as well as


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