thursday three

These days I mostly wake up with a Taylor Swift song in my head.

It’s pretty random which one, as far as I can tell, between her last two albums, folklore and evermore (I only know a few songs from her earlier albums). It’s usually not my most favorite songs, or my least favorite — it’s almost always one of the others (which is most of them). Some days it takes me a minute to even figure out which song I’m listening to — I have to wait to get to the chorus to know.

You have to remember that I’m only half awake when this is going on.

One day it was “Love Story,” her very first hit single (the “Taylor’s version” re-recording — google it for the details as to why it exists), sliding into the song “happiness” from evermore. That was a bit of a shock — it’s a rough jump from Romeo and Juliet getting a happy ending (“I talked to your dad, go pick out a white dress. It’s a love story, baby, just say yes.”) to: “I pulled your body into mine every goddamn night now I get fake niceties.”

It woke me up, though, so there’s that.

(Today’s was “Champagne Problems,” by the way.)

I liked this interview with Noomi Rapace where she discussed a scene she refused to play in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Apparently the screenwriter had a scene where Lisbeth Salander (Rapace’s character) details to Mikael Blomkvist (the other main character) her long history of rape and other sexual abuse.

The novel, as I’ve written about before, has its flaws (in fact, it basically screams “I’ve never written a novel before!”), but it doesn’t have any scene like that, nor should it have. Rapace’s idea was that her performance would make all the important points (and she’s right — she’s magnificent in the movie), and also audiences don’t need or want to know everything anyway.

In addition, in this specific story, you have to take into account that people who had been systematically abused do not, to the best of my understanding, start detailing it all to someone they have only recently met, or to anybody.

That’s (as my father used to say) phony baloney. Stieg Larsson (the writer of the book) had a lot of clumsy “info dump” chapters, but he knew enough not to do one about Salander, let alone with her doing the telling herself.

At the TV Tropes website, I found this useful article: “Continuity Lock-Out.”

“Continuity Lock-out” is defined as “The writers have let the mythos they’ve generated get so thick and convoluted that a newcomer has very little chance of understanding the significance of anything. They are ‘locked out’ of understanding the story by all the continuity.”

It usually applies to TV series, or series of novels, or movies (especially in the modern world of millions of Avengers and X-men movies).

The media where it exists most extremely, however, are comic books and soap operas, which can go on for decades. I read X-men comics for a long time, since the very first issue in the early 1960s. Then I stopped for a few years (maybe in the 1980s), and then, on impulse, I picked up an issue, and I couldn’t follow the story at all. I couldn’t even figure out what was happening.

So, that’s an important question with any sort of serial fiction: How much of a priority that is to build in ways for new readers to jump on midway through the story?

I remember the Lord of the Rings movies, for example. The first started with a big “This is how we got here” narration, but the second movie, The Two Towers, starts completely in medias res. So, after the success of the first movie, they obviously decided they could assume that the entire audience for the second movie, or almost all of it, had seen the first movie.

These days, I stay away from stories, in any medium, which have that sort of complicated continuity (well, except for Dark Shadows). Even with Legends of Tomorrow — it’s part of the “Arrowverse,” the universe of TV shows centered around the show Arrow, but I just watch Legends and ignore the others, because I know none of the other shows are as deliriously goofy as Legends. In fact, some of them look like they might be a bit grim.

This applies to my own writing, too, since the stories which take place in U-town depend on at least some knowledge of what U-town is, and to really understand that you need to read U-town, the novel, which is somewhere around 272,000 words long. One of the chapters is almost novel-length by itself, plus it’s written in hypertext. I’ve tried, in the more recent mystery stories, to give as much background information as is necessary, but it can become awkward.

So, that’s one reason that I started to write the current series of mystery stories (“The Marvel Murder Case,” “The Town Hall Mystery,” “The Heron Island Mystery“) outside of and before U-town. I can concentrate on the detective and her assistant and the mystery itself, without having to explain a very small teenage head of state who happens to have superhuman strength, or a mass murderer who lives a quiet life with her musician boyfriend and their talking dog.

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