[DWJ] authors' thoughts on knowing

shawyer at mail.utexas.edu shawyer at mail.utexas.edu
Tue Oct 9 10:14:46 EDT 2007

I agree with Gili about how a coy author can be frustrating and a turn off. Do
they not trust the reader not to give away information to the characters?
Perhaps they do, if their characters aren't particularly well-drawn. . .

Another reason "Archer's Goon" works is that we get lots of information near the
beginning, from Mountjoy at the municipal offices. Of course, some of this
information is correct, and some is not-quite-right. As readers we have to
determine whether to trust him or not. The information is given under duress,
but then the Goon does seem surprised at the extent of Mountjoy's information.
So we know that some of it is correct, and with that, we can enjoy puzzling
things out in the novel and comparing new developments to what we learn at the


Quoting Gili Bar-Hillel <gbhillel at netvision.net.il>:

> not knowing can be frustrating, and an author being coy with the readers can
> be a turn-off; I particularly hate it when authors are directing their plot
> in a very predictable direction, but writing characters who are constantly
> suprised by the predictable things that happen to them. Or, when the entire
> plot stalls because the characters need not to be able to know how the
> mysteries will resolve, so nothing can happen for a while ("Harry Potter and
> the Deathly Hallows" comes to mind).  I do agree though, that part of DWJ's
> genius is how unpredictable she is, even while things are constantly
> happening and evolving. "Archer's Goon" is one of her best books in this
> respect: we understand the dynamics between the characters and get to see
> them doing lots of different things as they attempt to solve their
> mysteries, and yet every new development seems to come totally out of left
> field, up until almost the very end.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: dwj-bounces at suberic.net [mailto:dwj-bounces at suberic.net]On Behalf Of
> Meyers, Katherine
> Sent: Tuesday, October 09, 2007 7:17 AM
> To: Diana Wynne Jones discussion
> Subject: [DWJ] authors' thoughts on knowing
> Last week I heard Kelly Link and M.T. Anderson read from their work and
> answer questions, and they said some fascinating things, which I wish I
> could remember better so I could share.  But one thing I remember them
> saying was about how some readers like having knowledge in a book and some
> like not knowing-- so a mystery might be most interesting when it's not
> solved, because you might like not knowing, or the Blair Witch Project is
> interesting the first time you watch it because you don't know what will
> happen.  They seemed to connect this with the fantasy genre and why they
> like it, saying that it can made the familiar seem unfamiliar, so that you
> know less.  Of course they were much more articulate and said much more, but
> it made me think about why I love Hexwood so much, and DWJ.  I enjoy Hexwood
> partly because I know so little idea about what's going on.  The thing is,
> normally this might annoy me.  I think it makes it easier that the
> characters have such little idea about what's going on, too, and we figure
> it out together.  I guess I am a reader who likes knowing things as well,
> because I think that a reason I like DWJ is that the endings have closure,
> that I know enough about what happened to the characters not to go crazy,
> though I can still imagine what happens next.  Any thoughts?
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