Monday, February 05, 2007

Q & A 94 Jarring Question

I was recently fortunate enough to receive a free, detailed critique from an editor who took a look at the first fifty pages of my manuscript.

Now, this editor told me that my prose was smooth and well put together, however, he was "jarred" by a place in the text where a dragon appeared. I was a bit surprised--this editor was familiar with the fantasy and science fiction genre. Apparently, he didn't like how the dragon came in at the twenty-fifth page, because it was too unexpected.

Now, here's my question. As an editor, would you immediately reject anything that "jarred" you? Or can jarring be a good thing? In your opinion, what's the issue with being "jarred" anyway?

You've reached the climax of a 200-page cozy mystery. The detective has called the suspects together. She announces that the killer was Miss Scarlet in the library with the revolver. It's jarring because you were almost certain it was Mr. Green. That's good jarring.

The detective has called the suspects together. She announces that the killer was Thor, god of thunder, with his hammer in the billiard room. It's jarring because Thor had no motive. Also because, up to now, he wasn't in the book. That's bad jarring.

Page 25 is a bit early to be jarred by the appearance of a dragon if the reader is aware that this is a world in which dragons might exist. Like, there've been castles and knights and burned corpses strewn about. If it's been an average day in downtown Peoria for 25 pages, I might consider a dragon jarring.

On the other hand, if it's been an average day in Peoria for 25 pages, you might need a dragon to keep me from tossing the book aside and picking up a better one.


Dave Fragments said...

Interesting comments.
I recently read Pushing Ice, by Alistair Reynolds, and I was a little puzzled by his framing the story with a chapter (prologue type) set 17,000 years in the future. The character in the prologue eventually meets the reast of the characters in the story. There's a time paradox effect involved so years don't pass.
Now that I read this comment I understand the why the prologue was created when it seemed so out of place. It was the only way for the character to pop up and not be a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering my question, EE. Maybe I could work it out so the dragon comes in sooner.

Anonymous said...

Burns, why don't you let us have a look? We know more than some free editor! If you want a jarring dragon on page 25 I think you you should keep him.

...dave conifer

Anonymous said...


You can introduce anything into your story, as long as you foreshadow it adequately first.

Rather than rewriting everything to bring the dragon in sooner, consider just adding some dragonish hints along the way (like burned corpses - EE was suggesting more foreshadowing when he tossed that idea out).

Dave Conifer:

We know more than some free editor!

Er...slightly tacky thing to say on Evil Editor's blog? Given that the Handsome One does all this for free also? I know ya didn't mean it to sound that way when ya typed it...

GutterBall said...

Now if it was a ZOMBIE dragon, that would be good jarring. Yup, I think zombie dragons are the next inevitable step up from zombie cows.

This. Changes. Everything.

Blogless Troll said...

What color was the dragon?

Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic, but is there a date set yet for the Q&A book to come out?

Evil Editor said...

I expect it to be available to the minions by the end of the month. I'll hold it out of bookstores and Amazon the usual three months so reviewers can review it concurrent with its official release date.

Anonymous said...

This comment is so important, it needs another mention (thanks whitemouse):

You can introduce anything into your story, as long as you foreshadow it adequately first.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Is a jarred dragon anything like potted meat? I like potted meat. And shrimp. Potted shrimp is good too.

Barman, one more if you please.