• Oh I love books that are full of implications. So many different ways to interpret stuff, making the book very discussion-heavy. Reading the book second time would give rise to more a-ha moments. But yeah, I would be bummed if the details are not fleshed out well enough for my imagination.

    • Gin Jenny

      And they really aren’t — I’d love it if there had seemed to be more going on under the surface, but it felt like it was ALL surface.

  • I very much like your rules, especially the fig leaf one. I would add one I call the Tempest rule, which is that you have to, at some point, tell the story of how you got to the island of people who are avoiding some great disaster in the rest of the world.
    One of the great things about Womack’s Random Acts of Senseless Violence is that the whole book is the story of how the character ends up on the “island.”

    • Gin Jenny

      Oh my God YES. I find it so frustrating in, particularly, dystopian books, when I can’t tell how the world came to be what it is in those books. It’s why I’m so fond of process dystopias when I come across them.

      (Is there a better plural for dystopia? I never took Greek and have no idea how the root words would decline.)

  • I love a World-Building Preface that just lays it all out, and then you KNOW it, and you can just plunge in, with chapter one, and start enjoying the STORY. Some may see this as info-dumping, but I see it as doing a favor to the reader, especially by keeping it out of the story itself so it doesn’t SOUND like info dumping.

    • Gin Jenny

      Like what’s an example of that? It doesn’t sound awesome, but I can’t think of any examples where the authors do that, so I don’t know. My instinct is to say that if they dump all the background in the first chapter, I will immediately forget it. :p

  • I am very fond of implication, but it has to be really GOOD implication, with lots of implication packed in there. The Haunting of Hill House is really quite explicit about the environment in which the story takes place, and it’s only what exactly is happening that is glossed in a spooky sort of way. There has to be a balance – if you want your feathers of implication to float far on the breeze of the tale, you have to have the floating over a very clearly described world, I think.

    • LOVE: “feathers of implication to float far on the breeze of the tale,”

    • Gin Jenny

      I think that’s a very good guideline. Shirley Jackson’s good at that.

  • My enjoyment of a book is ALL about the trust. If I believe an author is going to take care of me, I can follow them almost anywhere. But with a new author, if things are looking shaky, I don’t feel on solid ground, and that’s a big worry for me. So I definitely get where you’re coming from here!

    • Gin Jenny

      Exactly, exactly! I give someone like Marisha Pessl a huge amount of benefit of the doubt, because I enjoyed Special Topics in Calamity Physics so much. If another author had written Night Film, I’d probably have had far less patience with it.

  • Aonghus Fallon

    I think most readers can tell if the author is just being evasive (ie, hasn’t really thought their basic concept through and is hoping the reader won’t notice) as opposed to an author who knows exactly what they’re doing but leaves enough space to let the reader draw their own conclusions. I like to figure the world out as I go along, but that’s just me.

    • Gin Jenny

      I do as well. I like it when an author trusts the reader enough to let her draw her own conclusions about what the world is like — IF, as you say, the author genuinely knows what she’s doing and what the world she’s building looks like.

  • I think if a writer is not natively gifted at world building, they should just leave dystopia/fantasy genre alone. To me the world building is half the story (at least), I can forgive a going nowhere plot if the world is fantastic and engrossing but a vague story with little to no world building? No, just no.

    • Gin Jenny

      Hahaha, yeah, fair enough. I am probably less patient than you about a going-nowhere plot, but certainly some good worldbuilding can cover a lot of sins.

  • I’m pretty much in agreement with your rules. I much prefer books that tell you a lot without having to describe a lot, it’s not hard to do as long as you set a story up properly. The book you’ve mentioned sounds like it gave a lot of thought to the girls and the island without thinking to flesh out the outside world. Mentioned in the novel or not, I find if the author has an idea of the greater fictional world in relation to it’s story it shows.

    • Gin Jenny

      It shows SO much. The same is true of the characters: If the author has done the required thinking about who these characters are and what they’re about, you can always tell. It’s why I love Diana Wynne Jones so much. Even her minorest characters, she knows inside and out.