Friday, April 13, 2012

Lamentation of Swans, Fluther of Jellyfish

Yes, a fluther of jellyfish. It's the proper terminology for a group of jellyfish. Trust me. It's an example of the sort of useless knowledge you're bound to pick up along the way. Your characters are no different, but there's a beginning author syndrome dealing with those tidbits—characters always seem to have just the right knowledge for the situation. They've either been to the right city, no matter how obscure, studied the right tribe, no matter how long extinct, or happen to be everything short of a doctor of whichever out-there subject you happen to pull out of your rear end.

That works about, maybe, once. Things aren't easy in real life. Unless your character is under some kind of luck spell or blessed to have an eternal good life, it takes more effort than that to get things taken care of. You can't just have them knowing everything, or have an expert waiting off-stage to explain the entire thing. There's no conflict that way. Somehow or another, they need to earn the information. Sure, there can be flashes of trivial, otherwise useless knowledge, but not a whole slew of it.

Those flashes also provide a unique opportunity for continuity. If you introduce a piece of information early on, and then have it come up later in your plot as being actually useful, it creates resonance. Even if your reader doesn't explicitly, consciously remember the information, hearing it again jogs the memory, and they go 'Hey, there's that thing! You brought it back around! Whose a good author? Whose a good author? You're a good author! Yes you are, yes you are!'

What? That's what authors really want. Honest to goodness.

I suppose this could be more informative, couldn't it? That's kind of why I write fiction, though—I can make it all up. Here, let me try again.

Okay, I think I've got a little more in me. That little trivial knowledge can also be used really well to bring people together. I kind of don't want to admit the number of times I got together with my friends and just talked trivia, or played Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit. It brings people closer to see what menial crap we all know. That's why games like that exist—they're fun and, unless the players are insanely competitive, lighthearted. That's how my first ex and I met, actually—historical trivia.

Okay. I'm officially spent. Not the best night's sleep, I have yet to get coffee, and 'Burlesque' is on—I think it's a good show of focus on my part I wrote this at all.

Considering how much it would take to buy a lamentation of swans,

1 comment :

Jaleta Clegg said...

My favorite is a murder of crows. I started a Pinterest board dedicated to the weird things I learned while researching stuff for a story. So far, I have some terminology related to ancient Greek city state governments.