Monday, October 10, 2011

Story gripes

I'm making this tart right now (using figs and pears from our CSA box) and it makes me think I don't have a clear idea of what a tart is. I'm watching this thing bake in the oven and it's crust with some sliced fruit on top. It doesn't seem very tart-like to me. Even after I drizzle on the honey I'm still thinking this isn't going to be much of a tart. Meh.

I've got a little list of gripes going regarding things I encounter in books. Interested in adding your own in the comments?

1. Amnesia as Personality Adjustment

The kind of amnesia often featured in stories is quite rare in real life. I really dig the plot line though so I'm always happy to see it. However, I don't get why people who previously chose to participate in Bad Things are always so horrified to learn of their past behavior. This is so often seen in the amnesia story that I have to assume that there is a very quiet but adamant group of folks trying to subliminally convince us all that we are not blank slates but basically good. Moreover, we want to be basically good and it's environment that leads us astray. I want to read the story where the gal/guy wakes up, discovers awesome powers of BadAssery (assassin, master thief, smuggler extraordinaire) and is totally stoked to get back in the saddle.

2. The overuse of

a) "somehow"

I am so sick of sentences starting with "somehow." Somehow, I managed to get up. Somehow, I knew this was the right thing to do. Somehow, I knew s/he was lying. Somehow, I was able to defeat the mighty dragon. Gah! It was done! I get it. Either create a story in which I can deduce my own "somehow" or explain it. Or, hell, just let it go. The story will speak for itself. If you write it and you don't believe it, trust me, "somehow" isn't going to convince anyone.

b) hatred of self

This is another one that feels like lazy writing. If a character has performed an act that results in actual self-loathing shouldn't I be able to deduce that from the characterization? If I can't, isn't that a bigger problem than finding space to include: "Despite his commitment to never wear purple socks again, he did, and he hated himself for it?"

c) Complete sentence. Adverb!

I don't even know the name for the grammar rule this is breaking but the liberty is used way too much these days. I get that it's stylistic and meant to convey a certain tone, tempo, and feeling but holy shitballs I want it to go away. Badly!

3. Series' reviews

I know I gripe about this all the time but it drives me up a wall. I am finally ready to accept the fact that I must be the only person bothered by this because it's in almost 100% of series books. It must be what people want. I've been pretty actively avoiding series this year and this is one of the main reasons. There are a few I'm sticking with (speaking of, the last book of The Inheritance Trilogy is out this month - woohoo!) but I have to really (to the infinity power, lets say) like a book at this point to want to pursue the series if it turns out to be a book that's part of a series. Some time ago I read a book that I really enjoyed that was the first of a series. I was almost there on getting the next book but ultimately decided not to. The last couple weeks have not been fruitful for me in the reading department so I downloaded a sample from the aforementioned series Book Two. It has a prologue. The prologue is a summary of Book One. I suppose that's marginally better than the glaring and awkward way series' reviews are usually shoved into the first chapter but it still annoyed me. It annoys me as a series reader because I've already read Book One and it annoys me as a general reader because it feels like a laundry list of What You Should Know To Enjoy This Story. Why do writers (editors?) not trust a story to speak for itself? Why do they feel a review is necessary?

ETA: This just in! After reading this I hopped over to Ms. Bourne's blog and she has some great advice for series writers. 


  1. "...and is totally stoked to get back in the saddle"

    Hahaha! I would so love to read a story like that.

    "...I want it to go away. Badly!"


    What bothers me? Nothing so large as to be thematic, like you describe, but something that makes me nuts and happens far too often (especially, sadly, in various species of romance) is when people describe something (most often, some physical characteristic of another character) that there is no way they could possibly have seen under the circumstances involved. Eyes are most often the culprit. As in "....his eyes were like the ocean off the coast of Madagascar at three in the afternoon on an April morning with overcast weather" when the person thinking this is on the other side of a darkened opera hall while the person being described is watching the performance. Yes, I'm being excessive (but only very slightly).

  2. Oh I know exactly what you mean! I call that continuity of the moment errors. I just read a book with some of those issues.