Saturday, December 27, 2008

Flatliner Alert - Said is Dead

Today I'm wearing my reader hat and I envision that it's lettered in pink with the word "ANNOYED." Because for more times than I want to count I'm ready to throw a book to the side before I've reached the end.

No blood!
No guts!
It's mid book and I have no connection with either of the main characters.

I've read a lot of writing advise while wearing my writer hat and one thing I read was that said should be sprinkled liberally as a reader just skims right over he said, she said. And apparently it keeps the poor fools on track. Okay, it didn't actually say that but it implied that a reader couldn't follow a conversation.

Wait - let me change the hat, to the one that says reader "ANNOYED."

Not true!

There is nothing more distracting than the liberal use of; said, stare, felt or any other verb that is so blandly generic that it says - well, nothing about the character. And yet that's what I see much too frequently. That and words that explain what the action already has. You know of what I speak. "She waved in recognition." Hold the phone people. Waved? Didn't that mean she recognized? Did I really need to be told that it was in recognition? I hear the distant nails screech down that imaginary chalkboard as I'm yanked from fantasy land.

So where was I? Right - I'm forcing my way through the latest flatliner. Yes, a book with no depth - a flatliner. The writing allows me to only skim the surface without ever getting to know a character. But I forge ahead and it's the slowest read of my life. Every word has become a painful plodding sort of torture, yet this is a romantic suspense. Worse, this is no beginning writer. The book is a bestseller and I expected more. Nor is it the first of its kind that I've felt like tossing before the end and sadly, probably not the last.

Do I expect more because of big name reviews, author status and the publisher? Probably I do. And if that's the case, why are flatliners happening with disturbing regularity? As readers have we lowered our collective bar? When I'm leaving more books unfinished than finished there's something wrong.

So what's wrong with this latest literary fiasco? Well - a little delving and it's not too hard to find for it's on almost every page. There's more telling than showing and as a result the characters feel lifeless and directionless and almost to compensate, there's a whole lot of repetition. Worse, there's no feeling at all for the antagonist and the story's all about the horror he/she is inflicting on the characters. It's as if the author never knew the antagonist either or maybe that's harsh. Whatever the reason, the omission has literally pulled the heart from the book.

Now don't get me wrong - it isn't all bad. I have my fave authors that deliver over and over again with a good read. And don't forget the up and comers that have sweated over every word to deliver a good product in a tight market.

Yes there's good books out there and they populate the bookstores in well-deserved glory. And than there's the others...

As a reader what's recently bugged you about a book?

From the Dust


Teresa said...

You know what bugs me and makes me throw the book out? In addition to "said is dead" I am going to say when the "plot is shot". I need a book to move! Move along, keep going. Each event I read should keep that "rising action" feeling going. Dan Brown did it in "Da Vinci Code" for me. The entire plot was only what? - less than a week? But it moved! And I couldn't put it down. Rowling does it well in her Harry Potter series. Each book spands one year, but if nothing "happens" during November and December, she doesn't feel the need to write about it. Her plot moves, and I couldn't put the books down. Meyer's "Twilight" did it too. If I am at work and thinking of the book left on my bedside table, to the point where the next day I cart it along with me - even though I know I won't have time to read it - it's because of two factors. The characters are rich (not in money), interesting, and I begin to care for them, and secondly, the plot moves and makes me feel like I can't put it down. Okay, I could go on about this but I better stop and leave room for the other comments. One day we will have to chat about this...I got some other ideas...

Ryshia Kennie said...

I find it rare to have a book calling to me the next day. But as readers that's what we're all looking for. But you're right - if the plot doesn't move with some speed forward, unless you're writing a literary classic - of which there's a different literary tactic at work, the book is no more than words on paper and the characters will never come alive.

I look forward to further discussion and all those ideas you hint at.