AS A BOOK LOVER, WHAT DO I WANT?
I’ve always said that I can only write what I like, not what I think other people would like. I’m not a mercenary writer. It made me ponder what I look for from the standpoint of a reader. I read a lot, about a book and a half a week. I don’t do it for research, or to keep up with the Joneses. I do it because I always have done it. I love to read. Period. I write because I love to. They’re two separate, but coincidentally, interconnected things.
The other day, I thought it would be worth exploring, once again, what it is about stories, writers, books that I like and don’t like. Things I wish authors would and wouldn’t do. Below is a summary of those things.
GETTING TO THE POINT
I’ve pretty much beat this one to death. I’m no fan of literary authors, those that blather on about a character’s feelings, introspection, and describing the environment ad-nauseum. A good example of that is Stephen King and Robert McCammon. These two authors love to dwell on the characters and their feelings. It takes forever for anything to happen. Robert Jordan does the same thing. I’m in the minority because these authors make a mint, and have a huge following.
There are plenty of other best-selling authors that do get to the point. James Rollins, David Baldacci, Scott Sigler to name a few. Their stories move, go somewhere and still leave room for character feelings, emotions, descriptions of the surroundings and all the trappings, but in bite-sized doses.
“BOO” ON BACK STORY
I’m no fan of a lot of back story. I think it’s essential in many plot lines, don’t get me wrong. I use it myself in much of my work. However, there’s nothing that bugs me more than to tear into a book and hit the old solid chapter of italics. Oh crap, not that again! Okay, I slog through that one, get back to the action, then la-de-dah, here we go again. More italics. If the author spreads a paragraph here and there throughout, I can go along with that. However, chapter after chapter? Give me a break!
A pet peeve of mine is the author that likes to foretell. I can’t stand it when he or she tells you what’s going to happen. As the reader, I want to find out when the characters do. I don’t want the author to spoil the surprise!
GETTING INTOTHE BAD GUY’S HEAD
I know it’s essential to any story, but I’ve found more and more that I dread when I come to the chapters in multiple POV stories where we learn about the bad guy, his or her motivations, hopes, desires, bla bla bla. I don’t mind a short bit here and there. Sure, I want to know what drives the character, but just a bit, not a whole back story (see above). I find those sections drag on and on, even when they’re full of action. I can’t wait to get back to the main story (action) with the good guys.
Geez. Haven’t I harped on this enough? So many authors do this now, and it bugs me to death. It used to be a huge no-no in the publishing world. All of a sudden, it’s become de rigueur with so many authors that it’s almost expected. I still think it sucks. Every time I read a book and do a review, if I find it, I slam it in my comments.
This one’s a complete show stopper. I’ve brought this up before, probably many times. If the hero dies, if there’s no payoff at the end, that pisses me off. There’s no point in reading the previous hundreds of pages or paying good money for that book. The Ruins comes to mind. Writing a book just go get a reaction out of people is no way to make friends or expand your readership, as far as I’m concerned. However, there is an audience for that. It’s just not going to be me.
I can tolerate a little bit of some of these things (except a bummer ending), but only in moderation. Balance, to me is the key, and so many authors overdo them and get away with it. Great stories are either ruined or partially spoiled because of what I consider flaws. As a reader, I’m always looking for the ideal story. I love to be entertained and after all, that’s why I read in the first place. That’s what I pay good money for. I never know until I plunk down those dollars and spend a few days getting to the end.
Given my pet peeves and what I look for as a reader, that’s what I strive to avoid as a writer. Why should I write what I don’t like to read? I don’t expect you all to feel the same as I do. However, when you write, I hope you’re making those same considerations. Think about the things you like and don’t like when you read a book. Incorporate those likes into your style and weed out the dislikes.
Are you a mercenary writer? Are you writing what you think your audience wants, or are you being true to yourself? I hope you, as writers, also read for pleasure. If you’re just trying to make money and are writing what you think your readers want, you may be cheating both you and them.