I’m currently reading REDACTED by REDACTED (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Okay, it’s REDACTED‘s 9th book, written under a pen name as a new novelist. However, she has convinced me it’s a debut novel, given I’m on page 74 and still don’t care for any of her characters except the lead’s sidekick. Someone or something should be compelling by now, 16% of the way into the book. By my reckoning, the “hook” needs to come in the next 42 pages, when I’m 1/4 of the way through.
But this isn’t me trashing a very successful and acclaimed novel. In fact, I’ve redacted the author and title to avoid publicly criticizing the author. Rather, it’s me wondering if I really am so different than everyone else who reads. Am I truly the only person who thinks that being in all of the characters’ heads at once is amateurish, juvenile writing? Shouldn’t we writers be skilled enough not to write, for example, “Character A met B’s eyes, thinking she was giving him an odd look. Character B was thinking A was an ugly drunkard.” It’s all the writer talking, and little of the characters talking. Does anyone else get as turned off by this as I do?
Note to the writer: I don’t want to talk to you. Please STFU.
There are too many usages of adverbs when sharp language would do and the author’s impressing us with how many different synonyms she knows for “said” for my tastes. Still, I know we all have different skills in life. Some people, like REDACTED, craft lovely, detailed, intricate plots. Others use language beautifully. I guess I’m learning which I prefer. Still, it would be great to find a single book with 1) interesting characters, 2) lovely usage of language, 3) no superfluous details (why did you fucking describe a camera on a pole for 2 sentences?) and 4) no unneeded words.
Here are some reviews:
“A fun read, with a main character you can care about and one you’ll want to see again in other adventures.”—Washington Post” (Nope. He’s kind of a whiny loser, so far. I guess he’ll grow on me, then, huh?)
“An extravagant, alien, fascinating world for its characters to explore…great pleasures.”—Slate (What the FUCK are you talking about? The alien world has a name. It’s called FUCKING LONDON! Who pays for these reviews? Damn!
Okay, so I’m going to finish this thing, because 1) I love mysteries, 2) I write mysteries, and 3) I’m on hiatus from writing. But the plot better be gripping, because the writing and characters are not.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. “Bill is pathetically jealous.” I can hear your head shaking. But honestly, I’m not. (I am, however, judging you for using an unneeded adverb.) The more writers who make money, the more opportunity in the market there is. I am disappointed that mysteries have somehow devolved to being police procedurals instead of character studies. I’m a sad that lyricism is a dying art. I am disappointed that the book won’t make me laugh, or cry, or get a tad horny, or even pissed off. I am sorry that I’ve spent 5 years writing 6 books for the sole purpose of becoming good at it (and I am now, finally) only to learn being good isn’t the point. The last thing I expected, or wanted, was that Stephen King moment, the one he described when he spoke about the moment when you put down some book and say: “This really sucks . . . I can do better than this. And this got published.”
So I’ll just go back to my little office and keep writing books I only let my editor, my girl, and myself read. Maybe I’ll stumble across the book that makes me weep and believe that literature isn’t dead. Because, seriously, I’ve already done better than this, and that makes me sadder than you know.