I am reading a series where about half the book would be cut out if characters would just say shit aloud. “I don’t like this plan because I feel like…” would literally prevent half the plot points. And they keep doing it. It has made me close the book, stand up, and walk away muttering darkly more than once.
And this isn’t uncommon. In movies and in books. A simple conversation could solve so many issues. And I know why so many times it gets used. Sometimes because it’s easy. But other times, I remind myself it’s real.
My mother and I were talking about this the other day, how boundaries are hard because they require open, clear communication and that is hard. It’s hard to tell someone you love what you need or an outright, “No.”
It’s definitely something I think I am going to try to be aware of. There are times when I have seen it used well, especially in (true) Young Adult or coming of age books. Young people being told to keep something a secret. Them struggling to determine if that secret is appropriate, who to trust, and when. It is easy as the omnipotent reader to want to yell at the book, “Just trust so-and-so!” and I think I will keep in mind that giving information to a bad character can be powerful. Giving the character all the doubts, having them make the wrong choice, and suffering consequences because of it.
In the books and movies which most frustrate me, it is when the characters have a decent basis of trust for some reason, but choose to withhold information….. because? When I, as the audience, do not feel their silence is driven by an internal motive. There are times when their silence feels contrived rather than character. And it might just be a failure of the author to clarify the character’s motives.