Friday, February 11, 2011

The Law of Unintended Consequences

The recent bunch of books I've been reading have gotten me thinking about what makes a successful story.
I'm sure a lot of very seasoned publishing professionals have put years of analysis and study into this one question that supports their bread and butter. So really, I am probably not coming up with anything radically new here. Still, there remains several angles you and I can approach this idea from: Marketing, Editing, Publicity, Author availability, Story stickiness, getting into the right best seller lists, etc. From a readers point of you, being emotionally invested in a story is HUGE! You tell friends about it, it gets you up in the middle of the night and more.
Here is one more suggestion for things that contribute to a successful book - 
My idea: The Law of Unintended Consequences coming into effect for characters.

Consider this – In the latest Wheel of Time, Perrin moving one element in his dreamscape results in the Aes Sedai being unable to travel within the area, and hence he unknowingly foils the ongoing Forsaken plot against the Aes Sedai.

In George R.R. Martin's  A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) we see dragons flying. One nation knows the reason for this, but the rest of the world immediately form their own interpretations of this omen. Harsh consequences result.

In Harry Potter too, I'm sure this happens. We see Rita Skeeter's writing affecting Harry negatively, and hence helping Voldemort in his attacks.

Overall, what keeps me coming back to books is if the story is intricate and interesting enough that it seems like the characters are living real lives, with uncontrollable elements. Just like in reality, we don't always get the right omens, and we don't always understand situations and people correctly. 
The unintentional consequence makes the book closer to our reality, and perhaps we get more emotionally involved in the story?
What do you think? 
Any specific examples, readers?
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  1. you restarted 'A song of Ice and Fire '?

  2. While reading this I was reminded of the Hayek vs keynes rap song and of the saying at the very end from Hayek,

    "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."

    Heavy tangent I say! :)

    BTW, I like the blog a lot. Keep it up.

  3. I love that idea: "the law of unintended consequences." Where did this quotation come from? That sums up the beauty of a good book for me & how these entanglements are pulled apart, fixed & reassembled. At the end, it may look familiar, changed, or completely different than it started.

  4. @Sandip - yes, restarted ASOFAI but again stalled mid book 2. :(

    @aravind - thanks!! It is a tangent.

    @Teacher/Learner - It isn't a quote, but I think I could have highlighted my idea better. It is just an idea I had, from my recent re-read of Towers of Midnight.


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