Sunday, September 9, 2018

DNF: When is Enough Enough?

I recognize that I've been slower in posting new material lately. That's for a few reasons: more work at work, more writing less reading, but most importantly, less reading to completion. I have a policy of only reviewing stories that I have read all the way through. The problem with that is that this is an increasing phenomenon in recent months where I have relaxed my usually quite stringent standards in favor of trying new authors and branching out into genres that I don't read as often.

Why don't I finish a book? The most basic, inherent answer is: it didn't interest me enough. So many aspiring writers talk about not getting a fair shake: from prospective readers, agents, and publishers. "If you only got to a certain part where it really picks up, then I'd have you!" But let's be blunt: if I'm 75, 125 pages in and I still don't give a rat's ass about what happens next, you've got a problem, and I'm done wasting my time. But that can happen for lots of reasons. So for the sake of having a discussion about the failings of writing, and to maybe serve as a lesson to writers everywhere about how not to lose readers, here are the books that I put down in the last month and the reasons why in a nutshell.

My Cousin Rachel (Daphne duMaurier) I loved Rebecca. But this story wasn't going anywhere I couldn't foresee in the first five pages. The writing style itself was still fine, if stiflingly boring. It was all very safe and expected.

The Book of Kells (R.A. MacAvoy) I hated the characters. They were dislikable in their temperament, and I couldn't relate to the choices they made. The dialogue was crude and forced. And, a young Irish girl who traveled through time would not be attracted to a man twice her age or more after just being raped. Sorry. Stupidity makes me angry.

The Wolf Gift (Anne Rice) I picked it up because I enjoyed The Mummy despite some writing hiccups. This one had all the hiccups and then some - the characters were flighty, pretentious, and (again) unlikable. And it didn't offer any new twists or wrinkles to the werewolf tropes. So no plot to hang in there for, and definitely not doing it for the characters.

So what's the takeaway here? I need originality, even within established genres, I need characters that are believable and relatable (villains can be hated, but "love to hate" is the goal) and are not complete effing idiots. I don't need things that don't make any goddamned sense. Is that so much to ask for?

Image result for angry reader
Don't make me make this face

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