Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The 'What the?' Moment.
Now you're wondering what I mean. The 'What the?' moment comes in a book set in our world, a 'trespass' book as Scott Westerfeld puts it.
Scott says, 'In “Trespass” stories, a stranger comes to town. Something fantastic—whether The X-Files’ aliens or Anne Rice’s vampires—invades our familiar world of credit cards and disposable razors. Reality is shown to have cracks and fissures we haven’t seen before.'
The 'What the?' moment is when the protagonist realises something is not right, he/she is still in Kansas, but something that shouldn't be in Kansas, is there with them. It might be vampires, werewolves, or aliens. Scott Westerfeld has a great article here on the topic.
I was doing a manuscript appraisal for someone. They'd written a 'Narnia' type book, where a child goes through a portal to another world. And they'd spent a long time building up to accepting that the portal was there. I said to them, the story doesn't start until the child goes through to the other world. Your reader knows what sort of book this is from the blurb on the cover, they are going to get bored with the build up, they just want to get into the story.
If I wanted a book where I was wallowing in contemporary life, I'd read that kind of book. If I pick up a trespass book about the weird and wonderful coming to the mundane world, then I'm not going to balk at accepting that vampires are real. I want to get on with the story. It annoys me when a character refuses to see what is right in front of them.
My favourite 'What the?' moment came from Buffy. In the episode when Oz is bitten by a werewolf and starts to turn, the clues point to another agressive male student but it turns out, Oz was bitten by his nephew, Timothy (?). When he rings his uncle to find out what's going on you only hear his side of the conversation. From memory Oz says something like 'So Timothy is a werewolf.' Like that explains a lot and there is no Gosh Wow, moment of denial. It was such a delicious moment, I laughed aloud.
Can you think of good 'What the?' moments in books or films that handled the introduction of the outre cleverly or amusingly?