META/POLL: The Purpose of Criticism

Martin Phipps martinphipps2 at
Wed Feb 20 16:46:01 PST 2008

On Feb 20, 11:24 pm, Tom Russell <milos_par... at> wrote:
> On Feb 20, 9:51 am, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at> wrote:
> > I thought you'd say that.  But then there'd be absolutely no reason to
> > present character witnesses in trial if people's behaviour were that
> > unpredictable.  Your point seems to be that people are unpredictable
> > and that's what makes them interesting.  I obviously disagree.  A
> > person may be interesting because you don't know exactly what they are
> > going to do next but if their behaviour were quite so random you'd
> > soon lose interest in them.
> I see your point there, at least as far as art goes-- in life, someone
> who is consistently surprising would not lose my interest.  But in
> art, and especially when working in prose (less so in film), one needs
> to have some kind of center, something that ties the threads together.
> Saxon's noted Martin Rock's tendency to bottle things up and then make
> a stupid decision when all this energy has nowhere to go-- and I think
> that's a big thread running through his "inconsistencies".

Maybe but that's more of an interpretation than something that came
directly from your writing.  When Ray's son threatens to reveal that
Martin was the Mask with No Name, Martin's "face went white" but we
didn't know what he was thinking.  In previous series such as
Net.Heroes on Parade or Speak or even the original Green Knight series
(up to that point), you were always able to get inside a person's head
so that everybody, including new readers, could understand why your
characters behaved the way they did.  In all this time, I don't think
we've gotten to know Martin as well as we got to know Greggory, for
example.  I realize now that you were laying the groundwork for
Martin's character with all those flashbacks in the Green Knight but,
at the time, they just seemed to detract from Ray Crandle's story.

> There's
> also the fact that he's moving from solitude and self-reliance to
> dependence on and interaction with others.

Perhaps.  But I doubt if he was wearing his Mask with No Name costume
for fifteen years straight.  (It would have started to smell.)  Martin
Rock had to eat and he supposedly "got by on odd jobs" as he told the
FBI.  He had to have formed some relationships in those years in that
there had to have been people who knew him and saw him every once in a

> And many of the "tropes"
> or accepted operating procedures of the superhero are things he's
> deeply ambivalent and waffling on.  And there's more than that, but
> what it comes down to is I think I have that center in place, and you
> disagree, and that's fine and that's that. :-)

Except that, even if you don't include it in the story, you should
always know specifically why your characters behave the way they do.
Everything we do is for a reason and if the reader is confused about
why a character behaves the way he does then it is going to take him
out of the story.


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