Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Partial Assimilation

By KAK   

Assimilation: a notion intellectually revolting yet socially necessary (as Laura explained yesterday). Why do we, as a culture, say we resist it when our actions prove otherwise? Is it a learned fear of Hive Mind? Is our desire for individuality innate? Can we be led by the nose into the homogenization of beauty, value, and ethics yet instinctively rebel when left to our own devices?

You bet your bippy.

Novelists are too familiar with the dichotomy. Every genre has a set of reader expectations that shape rules to which a writer must conform in order to have repeat customers. As a consumer, when I buy a romance, I expect at least two protagonists to develop a symbiotic relationship that leads to a happy ending.  When I purchase a thriller, I expect a protagonist, an antagonist, and imminent peril. To fulfill the expectations, the successful author assimilates these rules, and in so doing becomes assimilated by the writer and reader communities.

Logical, right? Reasonable, even.

Why then do so many authors fight it? Because they are ar-tee-sts? No. They rebel when subjective preferences are masked as rules – be it in structure or content. No head-hopping is a subjective preference. Proper punctuation is a rule. Cock and cunt in Erotica is a subjective preference. Science in Sci-Fi is a rule. Among the writing community there are the clashing views that those who follow all the subjective preferences are formulaic and those who break all the rules are troglodytes.  

It’s reflective of our society over all.

Those who follow all the rules are dismissed as mindless. Those who excel know which rules are actually subjective preferences. Those who win know which deviations enhance the Contract of Expectations.

Assimilation isn't bad, but resisting it is futile.


  1. So true. Be original, yes, follow that different beat, but keep to the contract.

  2. Well said. That actually makes a lot of sense.

  3. Thanks, ladies. I'm all about the Contract of Expectations.

  4. I LOVE the poster you used as a picture for this. :-D