Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Writing about fiction

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Fiction: real world perspective versus in-universe perspective[edit]

I think I understand what Wikipedia’s Manual of Style means by writing about fiction from a real world perspective rather than an in-universe perspective. I read the article on To Kill A Mockingbird and this added to my understanding of what real world perspective means. However, I think it’s important to understand that not all fiction can be written in these terms. I have two examples to present: The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson and the Agent Pendergast novels by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston.

The Millennium Trilogy The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest are novels that contain numerous themes and events that affect real people in the real world. Just one example: a major theme that runs throughout all three books is the issue of brutality by men against women—Men Who Hate Women. I find it interesting that the Millennium Trilogy has been marketed as crime fiction. To me, that is a superficial understanding of these books. These books are fiction, of course, but I think they rise to the level of literature.

The Agent Pendergast Series There are currently sixteen books in this series. The series can best be described as standard crime fiction. These novels are enjoyable and popular, but they are not noteworthy beyond that. There are no themes in any of the novels that would inspire a deeper understanding of the human condition. It is the eccentric nature of Agent Pendergast that drives these books. He is immensely rich, drives a Rolls Royce Silver Wrath, owns numerous lavish residences, etc. I’m grasping at straws when I state that perhaps the role of money is a theme in these books; that is, Pendergast is rich but one of his best friends, and a repeat character, is Vincent D’Agosta. I have read nothing that would imply that D’Agosta in any way envies or resents Pendergast’s wealth. I enjoy reading the Pendergast novels; I have the books and the audiobooks of all sixteen novels and plan to buy the next installment. However, I would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to write a real world perspective article on the Pendergast novels. I do not consider these books to be literature.

I welcome any comments/feedback that would shed light on this issue.

Starsmark (talk) 02:32, 23 June 2016 (UTC)

It's not really "real world" perspective, but "out of universe" perspective. Not every fictional work going to have some statement on the human condition. Instead, we are simply asking that you write the plot summary as an external observer to the events, and not from the view of the character in the work. That said, fiction with themes, as "To Kill a Mockingbird" clearly is, would generally have a section on "Themes" or the like to discuss these aspects separately. --MASEM (t) 02:40, 23 June 2016 (UTC)

Use of the word 'forthcoming' for unfinished works of uncertain, probably distant, publication dates?[edit]

I just removed the word 'forthcoming' from the lead of our The Winds of Winter article and was promptly reverted. The reverter said that it was common practice on English Wikipedia to refer to such works as 'forthcoming', and I can't fault that logic. But should it be common practice? The OED definition is about to happen or appear, but in the case of this article this almost certainly is not the case, and speculating otherwise seems like a violation of WP:CRYSTAL. The temporally non-specific 'unfinished' and 'unpublished' bothe seem preferable. Hijiri 88 (やや) 00:34, 13 July 2016 (UTC)

I would argue that as long as the creator has every intention of getting the work completed, "forthcoming" seems ok, but a better word might be "upcoming" (which implies a less near-term time period) or to say "in development" or whatever is the best. --MASEM (t) 00:57, 13 July 2016 (UTC)
I have to echo @TAnthony: in their revert of your edit: "unpublished makes it sound like it's complete and just not printed." Unpublished makes it sound as if it were finished but not published for some reason, i.e. "Isle of the Cross", and unfinished makes it sound as if it's permanently unfinished, i.e. The Last Tycoon. So, I don't agree that those words are preferable. Your assertion "we have no reason to take them at their word anymore" isn't really overly defensible imo; Martin recently said he's working on it, and that's all we can say. I can understand the word "forthcoming" might not be the best word, as it implies the near future, so I also echo Masem's suggestion of "upcoming" or "in development", or a variation of the latter, as alternatives. ~Cheers, TenTonParasol 01:41, 13 July 2016 (UTC)
The category for these kinds of books is Category:Upcoming books, but "forthcoming" still seems to be the conventional wording for the lead. I feel like I've seen a discussion of this sometime over the years ... we should probably post links to this discussion at WP:WikiProject Novels and WP:WikiProject Books.— TAnthonyTalk 03:20, 13 July 2016 (UTC)
Actually, this is probably the wrong place for this discussion to be located. This category of articles falls under Category:Upcoming products, which encompasses such categories for pending works in various media. This really needs to be a more global discussion. I should also note, the categories under Category:Unreleased works by medium (named unpublished or unreleased) are for canceled or definitively unfinished works.— TAnthonyTalk 03:33, 13 July 2016 (UTC)
Actually, I figured if this really was standard practice, it would or should be codified in MOS. It should stay on at least one of the MOS talk pages, not the (relatively inactive) category talk pages, if that is what is being implied. Anyway, in the case of TWOW, we know for certain that the book is far from finished and even further from publication, but the author and publishers have every intention of bringing it to publication. I understand there are other articles where there is less media coverage of unfinished works of fiction, and so it is more of a grey area, but since everyone seems to be in agreement that "forthcoming" is not the ideal word, maybe we should decide where and how to have this conversation, and have it.
Honestly, I don't disagree that "unpublished" carries an implication of the manuscript being complete and awaiting publication, or having been completed and rejected/abandoned as unpublishable, or lying in the archives of a dead writer who wrote a lot more than ever saw print, but in this case I thought it obvious that none of these was the case, and went by the barebones definition "not published", which is strictly speaking all the word has to mean. Since, in this case, we have reliable sources indicating that as of either "now" or relatively recently the author is not finished writing, would "unfinished" be acceptable in the mid-term, while we discuss how to deal with this kind of issue more broadly?
Hijiri 88 (やや) 06:08, 13 July 2016 (UTC)
Shit. Forgot the most important part. As far as I'm concerned (and Oxford again agrees with: "about to happen; forthcoming"), "upcoming" has the exact same problem as "forthcoming" -- it implies the work will be published in the near future, and in at least one case we know this to be untrue. I think categorynames are less of a concern, though; we have more leeway in giving wordy names to very specific categories of books/films/etc. than in the MOS guidelines for writing the leads of articles on such: Category:Currently unfinished books doesn't seem substantially different from Category:Current sports events. Hijiri 88 (やや) 06:21, 13 July 2016 (UTC)
I think that exactly how soon "forthcoming", "upcoming", or even "pending" means is pretty subjective; who gets to determine if "about to happen" means tomorrow, next week, next month, or in 2017? And also, who gets to determine how long is "too long" for a work to be considered "in progress" as opposed to "unfinished"? Certainly in the case of GRRM, the span between novels gets longer with each one, and there were five years between books three and four, and six years between books four and five. You may be forgetting that in order for there to even be an article about a pending work, there have to be reliable sources asserting its legitimate existence, and then there would also have to be sources asserting its cancellation or unlikelihood of publication for us to indicate as much. I don't think we're going to find specific words to adequately describe books coming out this year vs. books that are taking a long time, and I don't know that we have to.— TAnthonyTalk 14:54, 13 July 2016 (UTC)
It is going to be subjective but that's something within editorial control and consensus on WP (eg it does not fall into original research as long as the basic fact that the work is in development and with either a firm or unsure or unclear point of publication). From video games, we nearly always use "upcoming" to refer to titles in progress, but this is because nearly all the time with video games, when they are announced we have a release window given, so we know the game is upcoming; the window might change or the game may be altogether cancelled, but then we update as needed. If on the other hand we know someone has a project but has no anticipated date of release ("it's done when its done"), I would switch from "an upcoming work" to "a work in progress" or "a work in development" to further deemphasize the apparent "urgency" of a near release. The only time I would use "forthcoming" is if a work had just been announced and would be released in the very short term (up to a month or so). --MASEM (t) 15:18, 13 July 2016 (UTC)
I still think the word unfinished implies a permanent state of incompleteness, so if the word is going to be replaced in the interim of a discussion, I wouldn't recommend that. I'd say just replace it with "future" (The Winds of Winter is the future sixth novel...), which sounds a just a tiny bit odd imo, but it implies simply it will be in the future. (If that's even the word choice until the book is released, then I'd be fine with that too, truthfully.)
Though, really, I don't see anything particularly wrong with forthcoming or upcoming. This all feels rather prescriptivist, in my opinion, but that's neither here nor there. All uses I've seen of upcoming appeared to simply mean "will be released in the future", from Kingdom Hearts III, with no fixed released date, (Category:Upcoming video games actually states, emphasis theirs, "This category is for video games with no fixed release date. Games which have a fixed release date or year should be moved into appropriate subcategories") to Avengers: Infinity War, with fixed dates in 2018 and 2019. ~Cheers, TenTonParasol 15:44, 13 July 2016 (UTC)
I agree that forthcoming/upcoming seem fine, but for the sake of this discussion, I've also noticed a lot of "XXX is the first novel in a planned trilogy ..." — TAnthonyTalk 15:54, 13 July 2016 (UTC)

Plot summary should be written in what tense?[edit]

Just reading our Wild Swans article. It's a little complicated by the fact that the book is a partial autobiography and partial description of events that the author heard directly from the subjects, but in cases like this when we use the past tense in our plot summary, does it give the impression that we are taking the entire story uncritically as confirmed historical "fact"? Should we intersperse "Chang writes that..." every fewlines? Or write in the present tense like with works of fiction? Most historical fiction articles describe events that probably did happen as described as though they were pure fiction, so should literary autobiographies be treated the same way?Has this come up before? Hijiri 88 (やや) 07:20, 29 August 2016 (UTC)