Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What the hell is an asspull?

So, the creation cycle continues unabated.  I've received a few more critiques on Part I, and though my readers' assessment that my baby has drool on his chin has proven its ability to touch on my emotional and defensive side, overall I'm happy.  It's one thing for me to say the writing sucks, and another thing entirely for me to read someone say something critical about the way I developed Crystal, for example.  But one thing being in management as well as education for many years has taught me is how to get over myself and listen to feedback from others, both good and bad. 

I think it's easy for authors, and even those who are working with small teams of editors and such, to overlook flaws in their own works.  Well...that's not exactly right.  Nobody who recognizes a flaw will overlook it.  I think.  The problem is in recognizing it.  Honestly, a couple of things that people are now pointing out as things to improve upon were stuff that seemed pretty good ideas to me at the time I wrote them.  Later, when I was revising the work, I still thought they were good.  Now that somebody else has pointed them out as flaws, I have to say...hmm.  In most cases, they're right. 

Not something to get bent out of shape over, that.  I find flaws in professional works.  For example, I just finished an audiobook that I enjoyed immensely.  Not wanting to be a plot spoiler, I'll be general, but it was a book about a serial killer who used a virus to do his dirty work.  Toward the end it was really quite gripping, but the author had an FBI agent speeding down the Interstate from the Washington, D.C., area to Charlottesville, VA on a workday afternoon.  Nope, not gonna happen in real life.  Somebody really should've caught that one.  I wouldn't have known it myself, of course, before I moved to Richmond and spent several pleasurable weekends driving to Charlottesville and D.C. myself.  Can't get there from here, though, by pressing down on the accelerator during afternoon traffic in an unmarked car. 

Worse was the ending.  So the good guys beat the bad guy, yay.  The device the killer had used, though, to deliver the virus was manila envelopes sent through the mail.  For some reason the author never really went into, the killer sent one of his envelopes to a middle school.  In the closing scene, we find out that the mail room person for the middle school was apparently on vacation (and apparently hadn't annointed a backup) and so when she returned, she found a huge pile of unmailed and undistributed received stuff along with a manila envelope.  Bom bum bam!  And now what?  Ah, over.  C'mon...tell me what happens at the middle school! 

The worst, probably, was what I've recently come to learn is called an asspull.  This single clever little term is used by...some literary critics?  Most?  Many?  I don't know, honestly, how widely it's used; I just saw it on a website and thought it cool.  The official term, from way back when I studied writing in my single college class covering the topic, is deus ex machina, or machine from god...if used by the protagonist.  I guess if it's used by the bad guys, it's a diabolus ex machina.  Whatever...I like asspull.  It's where the creator of the story pulls something seemingly right out of his or her tushy to either save the day or ruin it. 

Now, there's a line to be drawn.  I mean, in fiction, the entire story is really just a big asspull.  It's fake.  That's what fiction means.  But hopefully the storyteller makes it believable.  The line, though, is when Q suddenly shows up to pull the Enterprise out of the battle with a thousand pissed off Romulan warships.  Suddenly the story becomes just a touch less real, and it feels like...well, an asspull. 

Yes, that word is as fun to type as it is to say.  Asspull, asspull, asspull.  :-)

So...back to speaking like an adult...that's what happened with one of the subplots in the book, anyway.  The main character, beloved by all...a tough, single, female FBI agent...started exhibiting symptoms of the virus after being exposed.  This virus, by the way, exhibits in its human victims a nearly complete fatality record.  She's going to die, and this becomes especially poignant when her nose starts dripping blood, identified many times through the book as a key symptom.  But then she goes in, gets clobbered by the bad guy, gets saved by the other good guy, and sets up to live happily ever after, and the asspull is that her body was just exhibiting stress.  One paragraph, and then it's over.  Oh, c'mon. 

Makes me wonder if the author...who, by the way, is what I hope to become: a PUBLISHED author...had a group of friends as wonderful as mine read the story before she sent it off.  It might be that she did, and that somebody said, "Hey, c'mon...stress?  Nosebleed?  Sure, it happens, but this is a mad maneating virus we're talking about," and that she dismissed it.  It's easy to do, the refusing to admit that your kid has boogers on his face, but the result is readers giving you the raspberry. 

So...on I write, pressing through Part II about as quickly as I did Part I.  Should be another month, ish, and then I'll be ready to work on what my friends have told me I need to consider. 

Friends are good to have.  Friends who'll tell you that your feces really do stink are the best.

Word count: 4,559

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