Tuesday, August 27, 2013

BLAM and the Author's Knowledge

"....a very bizarre scene in an otherwise normal story that veers off into the surreal or strange. Upon exiting that scene, the plot continues on like it never happened. "
-->TvTropes Defines the Term

This week's post is about the trope known as the "Big Lipped Alligator Moment" (BLAM). While normally I would say Tropes Are Tools this one is hard to use for a positive effect.  It is confusing, messes up the story's pacing, bogs down the plot, and otherwise lowers the story's quality. The one successful  occasion I can list is the manga "BoboboboBobobo" because it is a string of these and the appeal of the story is absurdist humor and even then it turns many people off.

These can result from a disconnect between the writer's knowledge (who knows everything about the story) and the reader's knowledge (who learns page by page). This is called the "Curse of Knowledge", a situation where an expert is so deep into their field that what they believe are the basics are more like '3.0' to a layman.  I took a class in college that compared comics to illuminated poetry and it we talked about how Jack Kirby would draw things that looked outlandish or out of place and I argued that he might have backstory for these things but doesn't have the space to talk about it in the story. "What the author knows about the story is a fraction of what he can tell about the story." Thus, what makes sense to the writer doesn't make sense to the reader.

This is why Beta Readers are important. To illustrate I will share an experience I had with A Mage's Power.

In the first chapter I had a several page scene that has been compared to "Alice in Wonderland" sandwiched between two scenes from a typical day in Eric's mundane life. Being the author, I knew all about Tasio's motives and how this fit into the rules governing the Verse but both positive and negative reviewers disliked it. I was loathed to cut it out because I viewed it as important. Then I received a review that went into detail about why it was bad and I removed it. In the entire book, this scene was referenced only once more. It's then that I realized it was dead weight. I wish I had somoene to point that out earlier and thus the need for a beta reader.

For a related topic, see The Proper Application Of Mind Screws

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