Ah. Nostalgia

Ah, Nostalgia. It’s not what it used to be, you know. When I were a lad we ‘ad QUALITY nostalgia. Stuff that would stick to your ribs for weeks. This modern stuff… it’s like a bowl of stewed prunes through a short grandmother, so to speak. But it’s what we’ve got, now. The bespoke nostalgia of yesteryear had real craftsmanship about it. Not mass-produced and plastic like these days.

And I daresay in a few years the youngsters of today will be codgering away, and muttering about this newfangled nostalgia, all Virtual reality and not good-old-fashion plastic, like it used to be. And the young people won’t believe them.

Our minds are a powerful self-editing tool. What we take from the past is, shall we say, distilled. Not always the good bits… but the memorable bits. (As a writer this is true of dialogue. Written dialogue is what we would say if we left all the filler out). So: why do I bring this up in a writing blog… well, partly because readers often read (particularly in a series) out of…. nostalgia. They want to recapture the emotions, the sense of wonder, the sheer enchantment of that first book… Which, as you may rapidly realize is going to be hard because they’ve distilled the essence of it. What they remember is actually the best parts of the book (or the worst) and not the Meh parts. I’ve actually had one reader honest enough to tell me this. “I read your sequel to WoK, and it just wasn’t quite up to WoK. I thought I’d read it again… and I’ve changed. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did in my twenties.” It was a backhanded compliment, I suppose. My sequel had been nearly as good as his distilled memory, and at least on par with his re-read.

Maybe they have changed. But I suspect the truth is it just didn’t hold up to his nostalgic memory of it. Whatever: but herein lies a grim warning for anyone who plans on a series or sequel or trilogy. Each succeeding book doesn’t have be as good as the previous one. It has to be better. The one upside to this is that readers do love revisiting familiar characters and scenes.

But it is not easy. You have to be prepared to crawl to and from school… uphill, through the snow, both ways.

13 thoughts on “Ah. Nostalgia

  1. I’m nostalgic for a time when I could sit down to read, and have longer than ten minutes between interruptions.

    On a completely different topic, most of y’all don’t have a Creator page on tvtropes.org and those who do, have one that’s badly out of date.
    (I wanted to remind myself why a character was. But there was no page for the book, series, or author. So I started looking further.)
    That website is my go-to when I’m interested in something, but not yet sold on buying it. I don’t think I’m alone in that regard.

  2. A reason to get series out quickly.

    Another is to avoid fans getting attached to their theories so they hate being rebutted

  3. That’s comforting in a way because I think the best parts of the series I’m preparing are all in the back half of each one. It’s also harrowing because what if the first parts aren’t interesting enough to get people to want to read the back half? I’m glad I’m fine with toiling away in obscurity.

  4. TV Tropes was fine when it was a harmless, silly site where nostalgic nerds would poke fun at the contrived plots of the serials of yesteryear.

    These days it’s a scary, weird site of obsessively dead set convinced slapping labels onto a story is the exact same thing as understanding it.

  5. Ringworld.

    I always see people saying that the later books weren’t as good, but I read the third book first, and massively enjoyed it. And then went back and read the second and first books, and found them not as much fun.

    I think the ultimate issue was they all seemed to be treading the same ground.

  6. I first read The Three Musketeers as a teen in high school. It was great then. I re-read it every 10 years or so. It’s still great, but every time I read it my favorite character changes. In my teens I though d’Artagnan was the character I wanted to be if I were in the novel. In my 20s I thought Porthos was the cool one. In my thirties it was Athos. By my 40s I could sympathize with Monsieur de Tréville. Recently? Well, I can see where Cardinal Richelieu is coming from. Ya know, he really isn’t the bad guy.

  7. Reading your own early work can be . . . humbling. Let’s say humbling. Much better that embarrassed or horrified. We changes as writers, hopefully for the better. Just as the readers reread with a few years (or decades) of experiences and maturity. Plus, as you say, our distilled memories makes the reread a different (for better or worse)experience.

    Really, maybe I’ve reached an age where I can reread all my old books, and never have to buy a new one . . . Except for my living favorites who keep turning out stories, and a few new writers I’ve tried on recommendation (curse, you, Sarah, for recommending the Spacestation Noir series) and loved!

    Umm, never mind the above. I’ll never be too old for new books.

    1. Space Station Noir: I concur, love that series. I can’t keep the action straight sometimes, but the characters are fantastic.

  8. I’ve read some of my older things and I am nostalgic for the era they’re from. The things that I was doing, the things that I hoped that I would be doing.

    The stories on the other hand…I cringe.

      1. Yeah, the ones you reread periodically are the best. It’s sometimes astonishing how few of those there are (maybe a dozen per favorite genres). My experience necessarily grows with time, but my personal preferences don’t really change…)

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