I have always been an avid reader. I love a good read, whether it’s fiction or someone’s life story. Ever since my husband gave me an iPad for my birthday when it first came out, I’ve been purchasing e-books and pouring through them with reckless abandon. It has greatly alleviated the space and weight issues during our travels. We also don’t have to solve the issue of storage space for books in our home. At least, not for now.
Daryl’s recent query about whether too much of a good thing might be—bad(?), gave me pause. What is it that makes me enjoy a good read? A good plot, of course, is one. After all, a story has to have good bones. It would have to be plausible. It would have to make sense, even if it were fantasy, as in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. I’d have to be able to follow the writer’s logic or reasoning. I think it’s even more difficult to create a world and make it believable. Writers would have to “live” in the world they created.
There are books that are character-driven. And so, a writer would have to illustrate the various dimensions to the person to render them real, even larger than life. This will give them enough complexity to seem real to a reader.
The progression of events should be one that can be navigated without having to think, “Wait. Why is this happening?” accompanied by a frantic search for the link a few chapters back. Flashbacks are fine but their use should serve a purpose and not just for the sake of having flashbacks.
It’s important for a writer to be a good story-teller. There could be wit and humor injected. There could be similes, metaphors, alliterations, onomatopoeia, and whatever other writing tools are out there. The prose should flow and not be too contrived or forced. It should not feel hollow or fake.
There are some writers who preface some events or introduce some characters with side stories and other digressions. This is fine in so long as their relevance is not a tenuous thin thread to the main story line. Nor are multiple digressions, one on top of another, helpful. I enjoy side stories but if I’ve gone through 25 pages of digressions or if something could have been explained in a paragraph but has taken half a chapter, there’s something very wrong with the writing. I’d begin to ask myself, “Did the editors want the writer to fulfill a certain number of pages, hence, the added side stories?”
I find that if I’m having to go back several pages or chapters to refresh my memory on some key events or if I’m mentally gesturing the writer to hurry up already, chances are, I’ll be donating the book or giving it away, unfinished. Once in a while, I’ve even commented online, usually to praise vociferously or to express my utmost disappointment.
And so, Daryl, yes, too much of a good thing can be bad. But stripped, stark, brief, and to-the-point writing might as well be a scientific paper. That’s not literature. That’s work!
(This discussion is by no means meant to be a complete analysis of novel writing. That would take an entire book! Please only take it as a commentary on Daryl’s question.)
- Too Much of a (Good?) Thing? (dailypost.wordpress.com)
- Books Hiding Under Your Bed (authoressinspired.wordpress.com)
- A Long Long Time Ago… (breadcrumbreads.wordpress.com)
- Writing Tips Wednesday – Are you a Story Teller? (davefarmersblog.wordpress.com)
- Monday Morning Writing Prompt – Alliteration (liv2write2day.wordpress.com)
- 5 Reasons E-Books Are Awesome, Even for the Very Reluctant (pbs.org)