The Top 5 Things I Hate To See In A Book: #4
The continuation of a brief series of posts, in no particular order, about things I hate to see in a book. Like...
One of the bad things about being a writer - you know, apart from the deprivation, poverty, angst, injustice, rage and despair - is the better you get at it, the more you start to see the cracks in the foundations of others' writing. (Do you think Dorothy WANTED to see behind that curtain? No, she wanted the wizard to be a wizard and do his job.)
In BECOMING A NOVELIST, John Gardner wrote about a really good novel being like a vivid and continuous dream. The writer can't let anything break that spell. That's really what this list is about - things that break the spell for me.
Having just written an adventure story, I am keenly aware of the pitfalls of adventure-itis. I love a good adventure story. Many writers, like me (which is not the same as "Many writers like me."), create outlines of their novels before sitting down to write them. When the core of the story involves the protagonist fighting his or her way through the savage wilderness, or through the zombies/werewolves/vampires/kraken, or in outer space or WHATEVER, that journey should be a seamless one, never awakening me from the dream. But all too often, I begin to form a mental image of the writer, chewing on a number two pencil while he or she thinks of The List Of Adventures to throw at the protagonist.
It's okay to make a list. It's not okay for the reader to become aware of it. It's really not okay for the reader to become aware of the writer mechanically checking things off the list. One scene should flow from the previous one and then into the next one. Don't just keep adding anecdotes because you thought of a lot of them. ("This one time, at band camp...")
It's okay for the adventures to END at some point. Too many writers, I think, toss in one too many adventures. Know when to wrap it up, people.
And your little dog, too.
Up next: the final (thank goodness!) entry in this list of the top five things I hate to see in a book. After that, I'll resume my usual relentless sunny positivity. (ha) I'll give you a hint about #5 - it rhymes with Fiterary Liction.