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November 28, 2012

            I’m recently finished a novel by what used to be one of my favorite icky bug writers. Once upon a time, he was an author I couldn’t miss. Back in the 90’s, I picked up every one of his books I could find and was only disappointed with one. In that dud, there was no monster or even something supernatural. It was a plain old serial killer and not written up to his best standards.

            Since then, he’s continued to upset me a great deal by getting lazy and switching to first person. Later on, at verge of quitting the game in frustration, he found his voice again and came back. Unfortunately, the voice he found wasn’t the one I liked. He continued writing mostly in first-person, turned sappy and became heavy-handed with the moral issues. In other words, a bit preachy. Also, as I’ve talked about in Are You Writing A Story Or A Dictionary, he epitomizes that title perfectly, especially now.

            Once in a while, he’d do a novel and switch back to third-person. I even tried one or two of his first-person stories and always came away irritated, disappointed and just plain bored. I wasted my money. As for the third-person “sidetracks,” most of them weren’t too bad except for the part about being sappy, moralistic, and using the dictionary with abandon. Not the old author.

            I know, this is a long-winded way to get around to the subject at hand. This well-known and, very rich I might add, author knows his game. He’s been at it for over three decades. He should know all there is to know about writing a good story, right?

            The book I just read is in third-person (the only reason I picked it up). It’s recent, as of 2011. I got it on the discount rack so I didn’t lose much money on it.

            At first, it looked like he was back in form, writing a supernatural thriller like in the old days. Unfortunately, I found it a struggle just to get through each chapter. He threw the dictionary at me, as expected. In another article I also mentioned writing at a sixth-grade level because it makes for a more pleasurable read. In this case, though I know all of the twelve-dollar words, they got in the way rather than added much to the story.

            Okay, so he’s a bit verbose. That’s neither unusual or necessarily a deal-breaker for a well-known author, or a big blunder from someone who should know better. However, there were three kids that were active characters in the story. I dreaded coming to a chapter dedicated to the kids. Why?

            Realistic characters.

            Remember what I said about those twelve dollar words? One kid was eight and the others were young teens, junior high, early high school age. They lived, breathed and talked in the same twelve dollar words the author used in the rest of the book. I don’t buy the excuse that they were being home-schooled. They may have been well ahead of their peers in certain things, but kids are still kids. They weren’t grad students!

            For a best-selling author with three decades of experience, to draw kids such as this is flat ridiculous. Of course, with the power he has, he can pretty much write the phone book (okay, I’ve used that before so call it a cliché if you want!) and his editor will pass it off and go “Yes Sir!”

            If one of us were to write a character like that, we’d be called on it in a split second!

            From a reader standpoint, if it weren’t for the author dropping key bits of plot info, I would’ve skipped over the kids’ chapters because they were awful to read.

            If you write something and your readers want to skip chapters, it’s time to sit back and rethink what you’re doing.

            If anyone wants to know who this author is, I’ll be glad to tell them privately. He has a huge following and I don’t want to start a war on line. Besides, I’m still a fan of his early work and hold out hope he’ll wake up.

            The story turned out okay in the end, so I gave it a decent review just because of the ending. Boy, I had to suffer to get there. If I wasn’t already a fan, I probably never would’ve made it that far. Realistic characters indeed.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Peggy West permalink
    November 28, 2012 3:05 am

    Although James Michener is a writer whom readers highly enjoy and recommend, I started one of his books, perhaps The Source, that had a female character so stereotypically written that I thought, “Has Mr. Michener ever MET a woman?” I closed the book, going no farther. I know that I am missing a lot in not continuing with Michener and that haunts me but I’m sick of the way some male authors write their female characters. Stereotypes are characters you’ve met in every venue. You may have met the stereotype many times, ohhhh so many times.

    • December 1, 2012 2:28 am


      You said it perfectly. In my case, this author apparently has never met a kid!

      Good point!


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