What’s your favorite part of a book? Do you rush forward, skip over the details to the dialogue or vice versa? Do you savor each page knowing it will make getting to the meat of the story all the sweeter or do you read so fast you barely absorb the trivial in order to get to the hot and steamy sex scenes?? (I know, right!)
It’s difficult, as a writer, to find any kind of niche these days in a world full of so much competition. I know what does it for me as a reader, and I wonder if that’s why I write the way I do. I write the way I wish all of the disappointing books I’ve ever read had been written. But could that lead to over-compensating? Inundating my own books with things I felt lacking in others, and thus creating too much rubbish for my own readers to wade through?
I’m not sure. I find myself quite aware while I write, of how the pages would be judged by myself, as a reader – but not all readers are the same and I guess that’s what makes being a writer so great. If all readers were the same, than no one would be published except for that one author that got it right the first time and all of their copy-cats. So, as I’m plugging away at my keyboard, a mere puppet on the strings of my characters – my reader-self is sitting in the director’s chair ready to yell “CUT” without warning.
Too much detail is boooooorrring. Seriously, I will skip it even in some of my favorite author’s books. If the various shades of the Bougainvillea in the early morning dew isn’t moving me forward along the story’s path, I don’t care how it freaking smells – especially if I just spent three pages reading about the rest of the damn pointless garden.
Not enough detail leaves me wondering where I am and what my surroundings are supposed to look like. I feel like I’m floating in limbo – and one of my biggest pet peeves is when characters are having a conversation in the car in one sentence and in the next they’re in a cafe eating crepes without the writer telling me that we even left the freeway. Hey, I’m all for beam me up Scotty teleportation but I need to know that’s what we’re doing here!
Another thing is that I’m kind of a stickler for certain descriptive details. Don’t have me imagining the hot, dreamy hunk-a-muffin with blue eyes for half of the story and then tell me they’re green or gray or brown or whatever on page 60. How can you not know the color of your own character’s eyes, dear author? Only you can picture your characters far more clearly than you could ever hope to describe them, so I just don’t understand how this mistake happens – but I’ve seen it happen. I even went back to the beginning of the book to make sure I wasn’t crazy – turns out, that’s still debatable – but not about the blue eyes! I don’t want to read a book that makes me question my own memory and then wonder about yours. It’s distracting.
That’s an area I find myself in a state of paranoia over when it comes to my own writing. I keep an abundance of notes, and if it’s a series I’m working on, I will keep the first book open on my task bar as a point of reference while working on the second or third. Not for eye colors, though, that’s just mind boggling when it comes to a main character.
So, these are just some of the small things that have, over the years as an avid reader and as an e-book reviewer, stuck in my mind while I’m writing. I’d like to think that gives my books a little something different, maybe nothing as spectacular as an actual niche, but a little boost to whomever my readers end up being. I’d like my books to be the whole package. The whole shebang. The whole kit-n-caboodle. The whole nine yards… This is an example of over exemplifying and like redundancies, should be avoided at all costs…
Never mind, I’m broke!
I like the whole wrapped in a bow, completely superb from beginning to end kind of books (like you didn’t see that coming). A book that paints the scene with good details, where the dialogue is enthralling and the plot has some action, some humor, plenty of hot and steamy sex – or at least a fair amount of sensual undertones, overtones, everywheretones – and most importantly – strong, believable characters. Unless described as having the emotional depth of a Vulcan, characters should have ‘normal enough’ reactions to things. If you find yourself thinking “there is no way any sane, rational person would have reacted that way” it implies that up to that point, you were led to believe that the character was sane and rational. I’m not saying insane, irrational characters shouldn’t exist, but if they are whack jobs, make sure the reader knows that before you have them smiling and inviting Michael Meyers in for a cup of tea, k? K.
Another preference when it comes to characters, is that they stay true to who they are throughout the entire story. Their core personality, sense of morals, that kind of thing, should remain intact. Even if they grow in maturity, actual age or from that stupid tempting bottle labeled “drink me” – a character can’t go from being a sociopath to Mother Theresa in 150 pages, unless the entire plot of your book centers around the marvel of a new kind of brain surgery in the year 3154 that cures all mental health issues. Or a magic portal always works, too. It’s in the “If all else fails” box in the corner next to the shelf of clichés under the sign that reads 1001 misused words.
Some things, as a writer, though, you may never want to change even when you hear others criticize or complain about it. Stephen King states how much he dislikes the use of dialogue attributes in his book On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft. I happen to like dialogue attributes both in reading and in writing. I’m sorry, but I can’t stand the constant use of the word ‘said,’ it drives me crazy. My eye literally gets all twitchy when I’m writing or editing and I see said, answered or asked too frequently – and I don’t feel that clarifying a character’s reaction or emotional state in dialogue is career suicide, even though I understand Mr. King’s reasoning. I mean, come on, which would you prefer?
“Mine!” He growled lowly.
– or –
“Mine!” He said.
Sorry, Mr. King. As much as I respect your advice, I would choose option one, hands down, every time.