ENDLESS EXPOSITION – CHARACTER STUDIES
A few articles ago, I mentioned a book I’d just read full of endless exposition. I finished another one week before last. This was supposed to be a horror (icky bug) novel about a rock band. However, it turned out to be nothing more than a murder mystery that was little more than an excuse for a super-long (almost six-hundred page) character study, with little action.
From the so far, mixed reviews of the paperback, most readers loved it because it closely followed the writer’s previous work. These were obviously fans because the author closely resembles Stephen King in style. I, on the other hand found it to be the story that would never end.
When I stumbled across the hardback version, I found a mixed bag of reviews, with some of his fans hating this book as “not the old author anymore” and similar comments, along with a mix of gushing “love it” five star ratings.
There’s a style out there called the character study, which I think fits solidly in the literary vein, where action is shoved aside in favor of character development. What little story there is only presents a foundation, or an excuse to go off on any one of the different character’s thoughts on their past, present or future. This, to me, is a whole lot of nothing. However, it’s extremely popular, even though the author barely gets to the point. I think it’s more a function of the book being misrepresented as genre fiction.
Take Under The Dome. This tome was over a thousand pages yet a huge portion of it was characters, and not action. I’m saying this anecdotally because I never even came close to reading it, knowing Mr. King’s style. I know other people (trustworthy sources) that slogged through it and get the info second hand.
I can’t take all that endless exposition into the characters thoughts and feelings for chapter after chapter when a paragraph or two will do. How about getting to the point? Yet despite that, it’s still considered genre fiction. Icky bug, of all things.
IN THE MINORITY
I am, of course, in the minority because these authors have thousands upon thousands of fans. My review of the tome in question was due not only to a six hundred page story that should’ve been one hundred and fifty pages, but the author head hopped. He also put the bad guy in present-tense only to switch back and forth willy-nilly to past-tense for no rhyme or reason.
I thought I would get some hate mail as more reviews came in, but so far, I’ve only received one 0 out of 1 helpful review on Amazon. After looking at the less than favorable reviews in the hardback section, the author tends to polarize a lot of people.
My point is that the story was the book that would never end. It droned on and on and on. Very little happened and when it did, it was just another excuse to go off on one of the characters thoughts for another ten pages. It’s a style that’s popular, so as writers, I can’t suggest you don’t do it, but on the other hand, what’s wrong with a story moving or getting to the point? If you’re into literature, this is probably the style for you. However, if you’re into any type of genre writing, I’d avoid this style.
What do you think your chances are of a manuscript or a sample of your story getting by an agent if their eyes glaze over trying to get through a few paragraphs? My guess is that they won’t get very far or never would’ve with either of these authors if they were starting off today because they couldn’t get away with what they do now if they were starting out. Even King admits that now. He’s well established so he can pretty much write the phone book and get away with it.
We, as new authors have to entertain our readers in a far more quick-and-dirty way. That means:
GET TO THE POINT
You can say the exact same things they do in one or two paragraphs instead of ten or twenty pages. Then you have plenty of real estate left for action and movement.