Fiction Does Not Always Make Sense, Roberts!

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"(F)iction must make sense even though life iteself does not always seem to make sense."

--pg. 93

Okay, Roberts. I've read plenty of works of fiction in my day. I've read Harry Potter, Twilight, and other fictitious works not related to the fantasy realm. Actually, a particular work of fiction comes to mind right now: The Quick and the Dead.

If the title of this novel sounds familiar, it should. We are going to be reading it for class. Because I'm an uuber nerd and like to get things done ahead of time, I read The Quick and the Dead over summer vacation (you're right... I DON'T have a life, thank you very much). Those of you who have read this work will understand when I say that it didn't make one lick of sense. There are many different characters and subplots woven together in such a manner that breeds confusion. Some parts were alright, and on a poetic level the novel was brilliant. Something, however, did not click. Something didn't make sense.

To be fair to the author of the novel, though, perhaps the fact that it didn't make sense attributes to its brilliance. Also, to quote Roberts, "What we depend on for the sense or meaning of fiction is plot, or the elements governing the unfolding of the actions." (93) I suppose that, in some twisted way, there was a sequence of events, but I'll let you decide. When we have to blog about The Quick and the Dead, I will cite this blog. Also, if anyone has read this work, please let me know.

13 Comments

Oh my goodness, yes! As soon as I read that, I called my roommate into my room and read it to her. She, too, said Roberts was completely wrong. Sometimes fiction isn't supposed to make sense, and that doesn't make it less worthy of reading, especially if nonsense is the author's intention. Also, I think a lot of authors weave nonsense into their stories for a bit of comic relief, especially writers on television series. It can be entertaining if it's done correctly.

Josie Rush said:

Let's see if I can word this in a way that won't make the reader's head explode: I agree that a lot of fiction doesn't make sense. But when there's a nonsensical part, doesn't it usually serve to prove a bigger point. Even if the whole work doesn't make "traditional sense" don't the authors laws govern what's going on in a way that makes sense in the created world? In other words, isn't there always a method to the madness?

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

Yes, I believe it does prove a bigger point, and I do love when that happens. I just don't agree with the fact that Roberts says that fiction just "makes sense." Just like that. I don't know if that's what he was implying, but his statement just struck me as odd.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

Karyssa, I believe that all (well... most) fiction is worthy of reading because somewhere, deep down, even if it doesn't make any sense at all, it has something to say. I actually had never thought about the "comic relief" part of fiction, but now that you said that, Wizards of Waverly Place is brought to mind (don't ask). They constantly do flashbacks into other realms in which the characters are "sea monkeys" or other things that they can't be. Yep. I see your point. :)

Cody Naylor said:

Wow... I love this conversation! I completely agree that fiction does not have to and sometimes shouldn't make sense. And also, what makes sense to some, might not necessarily make sense to others. It all depends on people beliefs and life experiences. Fiction is just that, ficticious... NOT REAL... MADE UP! The literary world would be a boring place if all fiction were based in reality and written to appeal to people's sense of what can and cannot happen. There would be no real escapism!!

Carissa Altizer said:

Annie Dillard. Somehow she made lots of money for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I think her work was poetic and it would have been very enjoyable in short prose or poetry excerpts; however, as a novel it didn't make a bit of sense to me...

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

Yes! I'm glad someone understands... reading literature, particularly fiction, IS like an escape.

Dianna Griffin said:

Hahahaha I love this. I actually was going to say something like this in my blog, obviously mine would have been a lot less creative and interesting, but I didn't write it. I didn't think anyone would agree with me! I have yet to read The Quick and the Dead, but I am really looking forward to reading something that doesn't make sense.

Josie Rush said:

Ha! I was wondering when a Pilgrim at Tinker Creek reference would get thrown in.
Jess, I agree that Roberts' statement seemed a little off. He just made it sound a little to cut-and-dry, I guess. Fiction is defintitely an escape, no matter if the piece is nonsense or not. I think that if something doesn't "make sense" in a traditional way (i.e. we have to bend our own reality to fit the author's), it's great, but the reader still has to have some idea of what is going on. Otherwise it's just like some sort of word drill, just reading meaningless morphemes over and over again. That doesn't take you anywhere, except perhaps to the library for a new book.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

I'm telling you... everything comes back to Annie Dillard.

Anyway, there's a difference between going on an escape and being completely lost when you're vacationing. "Lost" is not enjoyable.

I really like what Josie said here. Sometimes, fiction doesn't make sense because it makes sense. The nonsense is part of some larger theme and serves a purpose in order to let the story make sense. At first, I disagreed with Roberts, but now that I've read Josie's comments... I'm not sure.

An episode of Farscape comes to mind, "Won't Be Fooled Again." John Crichton - the protagonist - goes through these extremely bizarre situations, such as falling from a skyscraper and surviving, and the audience is unaware that it is all a dream for a while. Nothing makes sense, the characters are all out of character, and no one but John thinks it's nonsensical. However, we later learn that all the events occurring were created in John's mind, prompted by an alien investigation device. While nothing made sense at the time, the resolution of the episode made everything click into place, so that it always made sense - the audience just didn't understand how until the end.

Josie Rush said:

The dangerous thing about doing that as a writer, is you're asking the reader to hang tough through a lot of weirdness. You've gotta make it count at the end, or it's like waiting for two hours to get seated at a steakhouse and having them overcook your meal: Annoying, flavorless, and hard to digest. What you gain is not worth the patience you lose.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

Yes... IF a piece of fiction resolves itself, then it's alright. That is- IF it has a purpose. If not, and there is no resolution, well... that's another story.

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