Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Illud Tempus

My e-book reader doesn't include the cover for the book. Not sure why, probably some techno-glitch I made myself since I used to get them, but now I feel positively deprived and dissatisfied. This made me wonder about covers and the importance of the illud tempus.

The illud tempus is simply a device telling listener to suspend their disbelief-- that sense that what they are about to hear could never really happen. I say listeners because this all began with the oral folk lore traditions of 'once upon a time.' That short phrase translates into 'just go along with this without asking too many questions about how and why.' The illud tempus told the listeners they were about to visit another realm, another time, even another dimension: a place of fairies, trolls, dragons, and now super heroes, impossibly beautiful characters, space travel and all sorts of bizarre settings and plots.

The best examples today are TV show trailers. We all know our favorite show's music. It calls us from loading the dishwasher, or balancing the bank account. Those beginning images and sounds are the show's illud tempus, asking us to suspend our disbelief for another thirty to sixty minutes. We know the hero or heroine will again surmount terrible odds, or find themselves once more in some implausible situation.

As a reader, I want to suspend my disbelief, that's what getting into a story is all about. However, few novels or short stories today begin with 'in a kingdom far, far away.' Reading a story where I just cannot identify with the characters, or they behave in unbelievable manners shows I have not suspended disbelief. Stories like this dissatisfy me, the reader. I want to become each character, and participate in his or her every success and failure. I want to share the characters' emotions, feel their physical word, and sense their inner selves. It is escapism at its best. This involves the art of writing.

But what makes me chose a story? What is the illud tempus of written fiction? The illud tempus only takes seconds, so perhaps the book cover best draws me into suspending disbelief. Covers give hints about characters, setting, genre, historical era, and plot. Certainly looking at another six-pack abs forces most women familiar with men's physics to suspend their disbelief (or, like me, question why they can't). Quite frankly covers seem to make me want to believe whatever the author says. Covers are in themselves fantasy images, but images often convey an impression of reality, so if I buy the cover, am I not more open to buying the story? I think so.

So is the cover an illud tempus?  "Once upon a time?"

My reader is so old it's out of production. If I want covers to draw me into a story, maybe I better invest in a newer reader.

5 comments:

  1. There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits.

    The Twilight Zone intro, and even Gilligan's island come to mind as well.

    Good to see you still plugging away.
    Mark Phillips

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  2. Yeah, I loved those too. Glad you left a message; I've been following your movements on Facebook.

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  3. Hey Robin, yeah FB is something I'm trying to wean myself from, it's a big time-hog. It's nice to connect with people but at some point ya gotta get to working. :) I see you've been busy as ever. I check in now and then here at your blog but never left a comment before. I'm back to writing and getting ready to send stuff off to a few magazines. I've dedicated an area of the studio to writing and settling into writing mode. Are you still in Prose3?
    I have a blog now http://coffeeandpaintinsomniacsblog.blogspot.com/ nothing too impressive yet but I'm enjoying it.
    Anyway drop me a line my email is still the same.

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  4. Robin,


    so nice to hear from you. I have a kindle (my third---I have a dog who likes to eat things) I love it but I also just bought a Apple I pod and it is amazing. Everything is all in one place.
    Dee Carey
    The Foxlady

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  5. Robin,


    so nice to hear from you. I have a kindle (my third---I have a dog who likes to eat things) I love it but I also just bought a Apple I pod and it is amazing. Everything is all in one place.
    Dee Carey
    The Foxlady

    ReplyDelete