Monday, March 24, 2014

Stop, Drop, and (Eye) Roll

What pulls you out of a book? Are you able to stay immersed in the fictional world no matter what happens, no matter how far-fetched?

I love a good book. I love losing myself in a mythical world, becoming the heroine in an adventure, being scared out of my wits, or remembering the whole falling-in-love process.

What I don't love is when my fictional-world-immersion is brought to a screeching halt by bad writing, whichever form that bad writing takes. This can happen in a variety of ways.

  1. The obvious: mispeelings, badly grammer, and punct'uation issues. Ugh. That even hurt to type. I'll bet it hurt to read, too. "Then" and "than" are not interchangeable. People don't "shutter," nor do they keep their eyes "pealed" for danger. Your girlfriend's "bear" arms are not sexy, trust me. I see it once? I hope it's a typo. More than once and I'm closing the book.
  2. Characters who don't stay true to their personalities. A tough-as-nails FBI agent melts into a puddle of goo when her apartment is broken into. A young girl gets pregnant, has the baby and raises it alone while putting herself through medical school, and yet falls right back into the arms of the deadbeat boyfriend as soon as he comes back to town, years later, even though he's still a jerk. A tough guy suddenly can't make a decision, eat, sleep, or work because a hot girl came into his life for one night and disappeared. A snotty teen who is suddenly comfortable with the geek gang at school because . . . oh, I don't know why. The list goes on. People change, but they don't change instantly and it should actually look like a struggle if they're trying.
  3. Impossible scenarios. Two people "in love" have a misunderstanding and somehow, one of them manages to move out of town without the other knowing it—in a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business (and everyone assumes, of course, that Person A knew about Person B moving away SIX MONTHS AGO). Two people hate each other for decades but get locked in a building of some type overnight—implausible enough—and suddenly realize they love each other deeply after eight hours of conversation.
  4. Emotionally abusive/stalker behavior portrayed as intense love. Sorry folks. Not love. Not even close to love. This is even worse when it's in YA novels and intense jealousy and controlling behavior are played off as protectiveness. Don't teach young girls this is what to look for in a relationship.
  5. Finding "true love forever" . . . at age eleven. When characters fall in love only to have circumstances separate them, and then meet up after twenty years apart, I expect those characters to be older than thirty. I can't count how many NA books I've read that employ this plot line.
  6. Too much street slang. It's dialogue. It's "real." It's gritty. I get it, I do. But if the dialogue is so slang-y that I can barely decipher it, I'm quitting. I want to read, not struggle with a foreign language. What's the point of being so "real" that nobody knows what the heck you're talking about?
  7. No research done by the author. If you're writing about high school kids, know that the football captain doesn't have practice in April. iPhones don't "snap" shut. People in Victorian times didn't use phrases like, "Oh, crap." Someone who is failing every class with a month of school remaining is not likely to graduate on time. Children in medieval times didn't make parchment paper airplanes during playtime. 
I've seen all these things and more, and they've jarred me out of a book as effectively as my alarm clock drags me from sleep.  The only way to survive is to follow the drill:

STOP reading.
DROP the book.
ROLL your eyes and move along.

24 comments:

  1. Ha! These are all great. That first one is a killer, especially with self published books. One of the biggest "compliments" we always get is, "This book was really well edited, which was a pleasant surprise." And I just think, what kind of Indie books are you reading that proper spelling and grammar isn't a given?

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    1. I feel slightly guilty for being "pleasantly surprised" when I read an indie book that has no editing issues, because that should be the standard, not the exception. And it's probably insulting to the better authors to know people are surprised they got it right.

      One of my favorite book moments was when a character yelled, "Ludacris!" when it was obviously supposed to be "ludicrous." Seriously, did NOBODY look at the book before it got published? It did give me a good laugh, though, so it was worth the zero dollars I paid for it.

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  2. "Children in medieval times didn't make parchment paper airplanes during playtime."

    That's priceless on more than one level!

    So... not even da Vinci?

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    1. Well...okay, da Vinci. But he's the only one who's permitted.

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    2. Nothing is real, everything is permitted...sorry been playing too much Assassin's Creed.

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    3. Brandon, you're allowed a little leeway. You have a new baby in the house, and that means grey cells are at a premium.

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  3. These are great! I've seen many of these, and they certainly make me want to Stop, Drop and Roll!

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    1. As long as you know the drill and are faithful to practice it, your reading time will be so much more enjoyable.

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  4. Lol! Yes! Stop, drop and roll! But please do not expand energy and write a long review of negativity on it!

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    1. But...but...the negativity is the fun part! lol It helps my eye muscles relax from all that rolling.

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  5. It can be difficult doing your own editing. I can read something back three or four times before finding a mistake. One day driving along in my car I suddenly thought of the word 'complementary' and remembered to check this when I returned home. I had written 'complimentary' instead. It can be terrifying to realize such a simple mistake is so easy to make.
    I have decided to rewrite my first novel, mainly because of the content. Starting to read it again made me feel embarrassed. I knew I could have improved this in many ways had I left it to settle for some time before publishing on Amazon, and I'm not talking about typos, misspellings, grammar etc., it was just poor.

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    1. Heck, I can't even edit my own blog posts half the time. I'm much better at noticing other people's mistakes because I'm not familiar with every phrase already. And I get you, with the complimentary/complementary thing; that's the type of thing that wakes me up at night with the "did I miss that?" feeling.

      Good for you, that you're rewriting! It takes time and effort, and a lot of courage to admit a book needs redone. In the end, though, you'll be satisfied and proud of it.

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  6. Hi Lynda,

    First of all, delighted to make your acquaintance over at my site :) I've tried to link into your blog, but alas, Google Friend Connect is having some serious issues and I cannot sign in.

    You bring up a number of notable points. I really appreciate what your wrote because I can very much relate. I have worked in the background with a number of authors who have sent me manuscripts. As mentioned by you, one of my biggest aggravations is when they have not properly researched. If I read an error in a book, I get fixated with that mistake and may not read any more of the book.

    Ideally, I like to think that a good writer makes you feel like you are involved with the story. The characters talk to the reader. I also like the intimate style where it's just the reader and the writer. I would never type to an audience.

    Brilliant post, my friend. I shall return.

    With respect,

    Gary

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    1. Thanks, Gary! I think I'm more intolerant with research issues because with today's availability of information at the click of a mouse, there's really no excuse for not doing your homework. I also get fixated on the mistakes more and more to the point where I'm not able to read without waiting for the next one to show up...much like waiting for a fight to break out at the hockey game.

      I do love feeling involved. When I feel excited for a character, or a wrenching feeling in my gut when things are going bad, I know the author has done his job. Some of my favorites are the books where I can't help but read a passage aloud to whatever family member is in the room at the time...too good to keep to myself.

      I'm not sure what's up with Google Friend Connect; I've heard a lot of bloggers expressing their concern this week. I'm hoping it will be resolved soon!

      Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to comment so thoughtfully.

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  7. Stop, Drop, and EYE ROLL! Hahaha...oh my! I think I hold on to the book and roll my eyes AT it so it knows...

    Great points made, as usual. Your #4...what's so wrong with creepy love? It's what makes it unique...so unique you're finding it in way too many YA books. and of course I'm kidding with my question, I do hope girls are not reading them and thinking it makes for a dream relationship. Goodness, imagine the future or our world?

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    1. I knew you'd enjoy this post, because you are the undisputed Queen of the Eye Roll. I have been known to look directly at the book while eye-rolling, just so it knows I mean business.

      Oh, creepy love. I wish I could say it was rare, but sadly, there are more and more YA books filled with the creep factor disguised as "protective" love. I don't think YA writers need to weave a life lesson in each book—and more often than not, the lesson-teaching books are annoying—but they should at least consider what they're portraying as "normal" and "good," and whether those things are actually good or not. Nothing dreamier than when you're not allowed to have friends of the opposite sex because your boyfriend can't handle it, right? True love, baby!

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  8. The impossible scenarios remind me of Hallmark channel movies.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Really. I've never been caught in any of those situations (snowed in, locked in, dressed as a cabin boy on an all-male ship), so therefore they cannot happen in my fiction reading.

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    2. I must admit guilt where the "snowed in" approach was used.

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    3. No guilt necessary for "snowed in." That could actually happen. But have you ever known anyone to be locking in a school/work building overnight with no option to leave? Please say no or all my eye-rolling has been for naught.

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    4. Hmmm. Technically, I'd have to say yes. (Sorry!) Some Walmarts used to lock in their third shift employees without benefit of a manager or other person on the premises holding a key. Click here to read about it.

      However, those stores are pretty darned big. I don't suppose we could expect a scenario where two bitter enemies were forced to be in each other's faces long enough to become bosom buddies!

      I know, I know, I'm giving this far too much thought. Just messing with you! I really didn't set out to be an apologist for bad writers. :)

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    5. If I were ever locked in a WalMart, you could find me in the Ben & Jerry's section or sleeping it off on the Dove chocolate shelf. Anyone locked in there with me would have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

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  9. The fourth one is just creepy. And we wonder why there are so many stalkers out there.
    True love at eleven? Yeah, if it's ice cream.
    I think just plain corniness, either in actions or dialogue, ruin it for me.

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    1. Ice cream, lol. YES. I didn't know boys were even any different from us when I was eleven. Our neighborhood ran around in a pack like the Charlie Brown kids.

      Corniness or stiffness in dialogue is a wrecker for me. I picture two awkward people standing still, like robots in a school play, delivering their lines. Danger, WIll Robinson! (Only without the flailing.)

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