|Neither one of these people is Andrew Leon.|
Another thing I have really come to dislike: the giving of "gifts" that will help the heroes but not telling them how to use those gifts. How dumb is that?
"Here's a red button. Only push it if you really need to."
"What does it do?"
"I can't tell you that."
"How will I know when to use it?"
"I can't tell you that."
So Meg's usage of the spectacles that were given to her were less used as a "last resort" than as a "well, I can't think of anything else to try."
As a plot device, this ploy is rather lame.
Here is the comment I left on his blog, which I am reprinting here because I think both that commentary and the response deserve wider dissemination than it might otherwise get:
I read this last night and then had to do other things before I could comment, so I have had a night to think about it. Don't think that will make my comment any more intelligent.
I have been thinking about re-reading this story, too, recently, because I only vaguely remember it and wanted to see if it was as good as I recall. Now your review suggests that it may not be. Some of that is because as we get more sophisticated we need better stories: what appealed at 11 doesn't at 45. Some of it is that in retrospect, you can question a lot of what you question here. My rule on such questions is if you noticed them the first time you read the book/watched the movie/etc., they are big problems that pull you out of the story. If you only noticed it in retrospect it's not such a big problem. The "Looper" thing is a good example: that question of why the mob would ONLY use the time travel device for that purpose occurred to me the moment I heard the plot, and so it's a big problem.
So some of what you say is a big problem, some a little problem, because of course you read this again, so you have the ability to reflect instead of being carried along on the story.
But the biggest problem you identify is one I hadn't ever really thought of before, and that's the plot device of "I can give you this but not tell you how to use it." Until I read that, I had never even THOUGHT about such a plot device, but of course you're right: it's through EVERYTHING in speculative fiction. And it DOESN'T make any sense.
It's one thing if the failure to give information is accidental (Wizard dies before explaining the magic scroll) or because the person can't handle the information yet (In Robert Asprin's MYTH books, Skeeve is a novice magician who learns as he goes) but the problems you identify are pretty huge, and hadn't been brought up earlier. Definitely worth a longer post.
So if you use this trope, DON'T. Andrew is right: it's supposed to create suspense, but it's creating suspense in a stupid, unorganic way. Any real group of heroes/adventurers, etc., would of course make sure everyone knows how to use everything as much as possible. If you're not going to give your characters information about something important, have the reason be one that works in the story, rather than simply being a cheap plot device.
Read Andrew's original post here. Seriously. Do it. It'll take you like five minutes and it's worth it.
Read the After, available on Amazon by clicking here.
The Magic Cookies, a hilarious story that is available on Amazon by clicking here.
DO NOT FORGET:
COMING ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, it's the first-ever anthology of stories by indie writers to bear the INDIE WRITERS MONTHLY stamp of approval*, and we want YOU to be a part of it.
The anthology is going to be a collection of stories about Time Travel, and here is HOW YOU CAN GET IN ON THIS:
A. Have a story about time travel, or write one.
2. Submit that story to us, by June 15, 2014. (send submissions to litaplaceforstories[at]gmail.com** and label them "IWM TIME TRAVEL ANNUAL" or something like that.)
THIS IS IMPORTANT: paste the story directly into the of the email.
I'M NOT OPENING ATTACHMENTS.
III. Make sure you have the rights to the stories and it'd be nice if it hadn't been published somewhere else.
Word limits? Who do you think you're talking to, here? Because there'll only be a few weeks to read them, shoot for somewhere between 1 and 1,000 words, but if you go longer, by all means, go longer.
Still reading? Good. Here is WHY you want to get in on this!
8(a)2.: The stories we like the best will get put into the anthology and you'll be a published writer!
So there you have it! I look forward to getting those stories.