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Looking and asking

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by skip.knox, Nov 20, 2018.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I realize this post treads near "kids these days" ground, but I'll try to make it broader than that. I was moved to make this post by a Facebook post in a fantasy group, but I've encountered many, many similar cases. The specific case was someone who wanted recommendations on fantasy books with strong female protagonists, the poster saying she had not found many of these.

    I don't need to tell the folks here that there are a great many fantasy books with strong female protagonists. It makes one wonder where she looked in order not to have "found" many. I picture a teenager rotating slowly in the middle of her room saying she can't find her backpack. The conclusion of "not found" implies at least a modicum of looking. I'm pretty sure what she ought to have said is, "I have thus far not personally read many" such books.

    We've probably all seen this. A person asks a question when they plainly have done little to no research into the question. I regard this as an unfortunate consequence of the Internet. In the old days, you could only ask your circle of acquaintances, and you probably had a pretty good idea of what they did and did not know. Most of the time, you didn't even bother to ask. If you wanted to know a thing, research was just about the only option. But today, it's easy to ask the hive mind--easier, even, than doing a net search, because doing a net search means you have to think your way through the results. Research. Ew.

    Writers are less guilty of this, but we encounter the behavior often enough. Here's my little pep talk to those who would ask before looking.

    If you ask, you'll get replies. You won't get answers, you will get replies. The net being what it is, on anything grander than a point of fact, you'll very likely get contradictory replies. You will still have to read through and you will still have to decide which among the replies sounds like an actual answer. IOW, you'll be doing a kind of research.

    So far, that sounds like asking is at least no worse than looking, but I'll go a step further.

    If you do research first, a few things happen. One, you'll probably need to formulate your question better. We can be sloppier in conversation than in doing Internet or library research. Two, the act of research engages more of your intellect--you read more carefully, take notes (you do take notes, right?), and go over the same information from multiple angles. All these tend to lodge the information more thoroughly in your understanding than does a conversation.

    The third is the most important: serendipity. Research leads one down unexpected paths, revealing unexpected treasures. It's the difference between exploring a place and just talking to someone who has been there.

    Conversation has its own strengths, certainly, so my recommendation is to do both. If you suspect this means doing more work than just having a question and asking it, you are correct. If you do the research first, then you can bring genuine value to a conversation. The questions will be sharper, more substantive. You will get better replies that will be more focused and more useful to you.

    Oh, but there's the bell. Be sure to read Chapter 12 and do Study Questions 4 and 5. Test on Wednesday!
    (old lecturers never die, they just have their mic cut)
  2. I like doing research if it's for something I like or about something I like. :D
  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    Old Professors never die, they become Emeritus...
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Decline the noun and it rhymes:

    Old professors never die
    they just become emeriti


    Also, very glad to learn that old professors never die.
  5. Tbh the "strong female character" is such a vaguely defined concept tha the problem might be in the search terms. I am sick of the "strong female character." No one can agree on what one is and once we've got a definition that makes sense and isn't unnecessarily reductive or limiting, it's so broad that it ends up including any female character that is actually a developed character instead of a MacGuffin, but Sexier or something for the male protagonist to sex up that has "ripe, perky breasts straining to escape her dress" or whatever the male author's mind decides to concoct. And almost any decent book is going to actually develop its characters. So we try to limit it to raise the standards, and end up idolizing female characters that Kick Ass and Punch Things at the exclusion of everything else. Throughout my teenage years female characters in YA novels have swung from being unhelpful, weepy and obsessed with picking between two boys and all being identically expert in martial arts, better than every man at at least one thing, independent, pragmatic, and street smart. It's a wildly swinging pendulum of consistent unhelpfulness.

    Please, please, please can we collectively get over the entire concept that being Strong is the most important thing a female character can be and that female characters are all Strong or not. I have seen the wheel of discussion spin several times on this concept and I very much want to kill the whole discussion with my bare hands.

    Kind of a digression, but you can't exactly search for something if you don't have a clear grasp of what it is, or if everyone has a totally different idea of what it is.
    skip.knox likes this.

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