Monday, November 23, 2009

so tell me if I get it wrong

read a book by one of my favorite authors last night... and very nearly TBAR-ed the book. She has a wonderful voice, does great characters and superb dialogue. And I got very angry because she misses the final step to immortality because her plots are messy, and full of dead-end red-herrings and well developed characters... who have no function in the plot at all, and then she leaves a slew untied off ends – which are never going to be tied off. The plot relies vastly on repeated co-incidences – which are un-necessary. The story is painfully obviously pantsered 9without backfill, to deadline and deadline length... and yet I read it all, because what she does well, she does very very well. And as one of the grand old dames of the field I am pretty sure no one has ever dared tell her to apply the chekov principal and tie off her ends, and one co-incidence per book.
So: I am nothing like that league and never will be... but I really want people to tell me what they don't like. Because I can clearly see what she needs to do - even if I can't do what she already does.

5 comments:

matapam said...

I think one of the advantages of teaching is to solidify the teacher's grasp of not just how to, but why.

I can think of a few authors who could use some teaching . . .

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

I can tell you what I like, Dave.

I like honesty. It can be a romance, or a fantasy but the characters have to be honest, so faults and all. And a little bit of humour helps.

What I don't like?

Stupid characters. In a book or film, if the character does something stupid when I can clearly see that the author has laid out warnings, I get impatient with them. Too many of those moments and I just switch off.

Kate said...

Um. ::Puts on the hard hat and retreats to the bomb shelter:: I"m quite willing to tell it like it is, so long as I don't get coconutted - although when you move to Oz, you might have to switch to something like bunya nuts - which is a frightening prospect. I've seen those things land and it's like a bomb dropping.

The short-short version, oh Mighty Simian One, is that you're not Pratchettian yet, but you get closer every bloody book. And you'd better not wait for posthumous recognition, because I for one want to see you get recognized prehumously ;-)

RJ_CruzeJr said...

I think that's one of the pitfalls of success; you get so big that no one will tell you when you waffle it, and because they don't, a lot of crap makes it into print. Instead, they tell you what you want to hear (because you're so bloody successful) instead of what you need to hear (because they're afraid you'll take your toys and go play at some other publisher).

Ever notice that it seems like when you go over Author X's work, so many times it seems like his best work was the stuff he did before he became hugely successful? Many feel that it's because, somewhere along the line, he "sold out" or something like that. I believe it's because in the pre-mega success days, Author X was still getting good, honest feedback. People were actually calling him on using deus ex machina to wrap things up, or letting a really promising sub-plot die of neglect.

One thing I'm confident in is that, even if I do get ultra-mega successful (ie J.K Rowling, Stephen King, and Dan Brown got into a fist-fight over who'd get to submit a short to an antho I was editing -- Level of Success), Dave will be still be more than willing to fling coconuts my way when I do something stupid. In fact, I think my swelled head would make it an even easier target ;-)

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Oy. I THINK I know which book you're speaking of, too.

Your writing -- your beginnings suck. Not in absolute, but in comparison to the rest. They're still good, but they're not worthy of the rest of the book. But you know that.

Unfortunately, while this means you are one of the best writers working sf/f today, you'll have trouble selling to editors. So... what to do about it? I don't know.

I went all obsessive about beginnings for about a year, ten years or so ago and made notes on the ones of the books I liked and it seemed to help. But I'm such an... organic learner that the technicque might not translate.

The thing is, I don't think you're the resting on laurels type, so you'll be okay.

And my problem is that I have trouble getting the plot to emphasize and underline theme an character. Which is a far bigger failing than yours. And one I don't know how to get over. Yet.

Oh, the author you mentioned. I think old age is involved at this point. Saddly old age and organic issues affect the mind...