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Trickle of Consciousness
jkason
jkason
So I just tore my way through The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in less than a week, which for me is nothing short of impressive. I'm still not entirely sure why I found it quite so engrossing, but I don't know that I want to do a whole lot of looking in the gift horse's mouth.

It did get me thinking about my general assumptions vis-a-vis the "two impossible, deadly choices" trope, though. I mean, I can't remember the last time the central protagonist of a story was presented with an apparently no-win scenario, faced with two choices that both involve her or him dying, and I didn't immediately start looking for whatever the third option was going to be.

And yet, I don't always mind it, as this book would suggest. It's difficult, certainly, to make it work, for precisely the reason above. Having come across it so many times before, I'm nearly impossible to convince that your binary decision is exactly that. Indeed, if it turns out the decision your character's struggling with over a lengthy period of time actually is that simple, I wind up feeling cheated. Why the hell do I want to slog through all the interceding stuff if it doesn't go any further than what you handed me at the inciting incident? I'm mean that way.

I think it works best when you realize I won't buy what you're selling. It's sort the "laughing at / laughing with" difference. If I think you actually believe you've snowed me and I'm going to fret and wring my hands about this impending death, I'll just be annoyed. However, if you present the no-win, recognizing that I don't for one second believe there's not a trick involved, then tease me with the trick, I might just be willing to play along. Take me down one corridor and another, dangling the "maybe this is the secret way out" in front of me (and, of course, your character). Acknowledge that we all know you're withholding, that there's something twisty in the works, that this is a game you and I are playing, a mystery I'm trying to solve.

When we all know the game, it's a whole lot more fun.

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Comments
stotangirl From: stotangirl Date: July 17th, 2013 04:36 pm (UTC) (wanna link?)
Do you want me to bring the next one with me on Saturday? I have all three.
jkason From: jkason Date: July 19th, 2013 01:40 pm (UTC) (wanna link?)
Actually, hold off on that. Since I already have two other books I borrowed from you, I don't want to have too many and lose track of what I borrowed. Thankfully, this book didn't end in a Company-like cliffhanger, so I shouldn't get too anxious with a wait. Thanks, though! :)
see the 2 drops in the bucket or add a drop