Saturday, January 24, 2009

AYKB vs. Reminder

This may not seem like a crime fiction post, but it gets there. Hubby and I are watching Babylon 5 (aka the BEST TV SHOW EVER!!!), part of a near-yearly tradition since we got the whole show on DVD. This show was written as a closed arc-- with a plot line that builds in nearly every episode to culminate in the last seasons.

So, the story builds over the series, taking place of the span not just of weeks, but years. There is sometimes considerable time between one event and the next time it is important. Flashbacks are used, but thankfully are done so sparingly.

More often, B5's writer, J. Michael Straczynski, uses dialogue subtlely to remind the audience who or what something is in the world he created. Sometimes it almost seems like an "As You Know Bob" (BTW, the Turkey City Lexicon makes for good reading and good studying. Clicky-clicky.) One example that is an outright AYKB is from early in the show where one character is reporting to another that their colony on "Ragesh three, our agricultural colony, has been attacked." However, both characters should know that it's an agricultural colony.

Others are more subtle. These are the ones I like most. It's a little reminder if you've forgotten who did what, or what that made up word or name means again.

I actually employ such reminders in my own novel. Because of the nature of a detective story (or at least one that's not cozy), there are a lot of names. Many are not imporant in the long run. So, I leave little clues to the reader. A phrase, a comment, to help the reader. Especially if the reader is like me and sometimes has to sneak reading in while waiting for an appointment or while dinner cooks. Plus, my memory's not so great.

It seems a very thin and subtle line that differentiates an AYKB and a reminder. Mainly, I think, execution will be the deciding factor. This is easier in fiction-- particularly first person fiction because Bo can think it to herself. People often recall things to themselves. A TV show like B5 has more limitations.

Some stories I've read use just a few charcaters or are obvious like Columbo (Just one more thing-- oh, that guy did it. ;-) Others seem intent on confusing the reader. Do you like reminders to refresh your memory when there are many pages between you and the last time that character, event, etc. came up? Or maybe you prefer the author just simplify things?

Me, I like complicated stories, but with just a smidge of hand holding. This particular model of Clair didn't come with enough RAM, that's for damn sure.


David Cranmer said...

I remember as a kid being a fan of Bruce Boxleitner in a show called Bring 'Em Back Alive about adventurer Frank Buck. I may just have to check out Babylon 5. Your enthusiasm for the show and my love for sci-fi may just be enough to make my credit card buckle again.

Barbara Martin said...

I have seen episodes of Babylon 5 and really liked them.

Bruce Boxleitner used to be in 'The Scarecrow and Mrs. King' and 'How The West Was Won'; loved those shows.

Clair Dickson said...

I maintain, B5 is the best TV show ever.

It's got a few weak moments, but it's still overall fantastic.