Friday, May 31, 2013

Things that kill your story. Or: Life after the first chapter.

Tell me if you're like me. You research a book, the synopsis sounds intriguing, so you read the first chapter (if it's available) online. And: It's superb! It grabs you at the first line! The story problem is introduced right away in such a heart-wrenching way that you MUST HAVE THIS BOOK!

And then?

You click "Purchase".

Two weeks later you get to read past that first chapter and you find out you're reading an entirely different book. Nope. Same book.  But where did the Ooomph go? What happened to the pace? The voice was lost somewhere between page 4 and page 5. It dropped right out of the book and into the garbage pail, that's what it did.

I've read a few books lately and this is basically what happened. Each book had its good qualities, but they each had undeniable problems.

First off, you probably know I'm not the type to blackball people on my blog. I'll leave that to the vicious heartless critics out there. This blog's purpose it to learn from--not tear down--other authors. But let's look at the three samples I have.

Book one, I'll admit, I wasn't as into the story line as I thought I'd be. They just didn't take it in the direction I was hoping for. But book one and book two had the same problem. They had a dynamic first chapter and then their pacing went out the window. Book one had very few important events happening and a lot of every day activities. Book two was the same way, but let's add that there were events happening off and on, but no real road blocks. If you have action sequences, that doesn't mean you have good drama. It's just melodrama. This book was full of guns (boy, did this author like to write about guns! Holy cow!), and people were shooting at them, there were bombs going off, but every time (and I really paid attention to make sure I wasn't missing something) they went after their goal, there were no real obstacles. Nothing barring their way. No re-tries. (Oh, and this author was a man, and boy was there a lot of flirting going on! I was surprised =).

The third book I will still say I liked, but for all intensive purposes I will still not use the title and show it as an example of what not to do. Granted, with book three, I love this author and think they have a great voice. Usually. They've tried other voices and done just fine. But I was expecting something akin to that caliber and it didn't happen. Sometimes I think authors are only good at one kind of genre or voice and when they stray from what they're good at, it doesn't work. Sad, but true. And that's fine. Stick with what you're good at.

Book three had an interesting plot, but I didn't really feel that link to the characters. It was set so far in the future where the people are so different, that you couldn't really relate to them half the time. Also, I'm all for a good moral, I really really am, but this book was a statement piece where every other chapter there was an obvious complaint about the way (for example: the government) things are in our country. Now, I totally agreed with everything this person was complaining about. But when you make a book your platform and not about the characters' story, then you lose touch with the reader. Morals are great. EVERY story should have one, but there's a good and a bad way to do it. Preaching at people in a negative way every five pages isn't going to get people to join your side of the podium.

So, to reiterate, this is what I learned:

  1. Make sure you keep your voice throughout your book.
  2. Don't forget about pacing. No one wants to hear about mundane everyday activities.
  3. Every action (basically) needs to be thwarted and worked through. Try, try again.
  4. Don't preach. Subtlety is best. Get your reader thinking, and seeing your point in a more uplifting way.
  5. And just for my own sake, Don't have a romance in your book if you start out with the characters totally mush-faced about each other and constantly flirting. Give a little, give some more, and then reward the reader with the appropriate amount of mushiness in the end. (PLEASE don't use sex in teen novels. There are far too many unplanned pregnancies in this world already! Let's not encourage children to be immoral.) PS. It's okay to have a platform on a blog =). This is where you learn about ME. 
So, there are some tidbits for you. What are some of YOUR pet-peeves when you buy a book you were excited for and it left you hanging? 

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