What happened? What do you think happened?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written about different approaches authors can take based upon reader feedback. For example, they could change their work to better reflect the meanings they want to convey. Or they could take a different route and change things up because they liked what the readers had to say. However, there is a third option that an author can create in response to reader feedback.

This third option can sometimes be the best – and the funniest – of all the different choices. It’s called “the Noodle Incident.”

The term stems from the excellent comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes,” by Bill Watterson. Basically, something happened with noodles, but the reader is never given the exact details. This is because Watterson reportedly stated that any theories that the readers could come up with would be better than anything he could create.

Even though Watterson certainly didn’t generate the concept (I’ve found that one example apparently can be found in the classic Arabian Nights stories), it is a popular one. Usually done for humor, the author will refer to some sort of event or situation – often traumatic or horrifying to the characters involved – but deliberately never explains it further in detail (often with another character responding to such inquiries with “don’t ask.”)

Now it is possible that this could lead into a potential sequel or prequel for the work in question… but there are times that the creator of the work can take the same approach as Watterson. Whatever the author makes up can’t possibly be as clever or as fun as the wild mass guessing of countless readers. In fact, theories about what “the Noodle Incident” could really be can fill a lot of forums, because fans like to guess about these kinds of things, and possibly even generate their own stories about it. (In fact, some writers have created successful Sherlock Holmes stories based on incidents only hinted at by Dr. Watson.)

So Noodle Incidents can be a way to improve the fan base. The author allows the readers to come up with their own theories, and provides very little clues about what really happened. In a sense, this prompts more audience participation – which, naturally, gives the reader a sense that they are also involved with the plot.

Plus, it’s fun!

While creating a Noodle Incident can be deliberate, sometimes these can be spontaneously – or even accidentally – generated. In these cases, the author has to decide whether they want to clarify things, or just run with it. It all depends on how much control the author wants to have over their work. But in all honesty, it can usually be entertaining just to stand back and let the readers have their fun. So keep that in mind if it happens to you!

Have fun with your stories, and keep on writing!

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