Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fresh or Familiar

The Beauty and the Beast of Branding.

I'm not talking here about series, because I think readers who choose series books have declared that they WANT familiar. But what about those prolific authors people consume like buffet style starches, piling them on and reading again and again. Where do THOSE authors draw the line (where should they?)

Several years back, on recommendation from a coworker who rarely steered me wrong (Carol Ann, I miss your book recommendations!), I read Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner. I loved it, so I got ahold of another of her books. About fifty pages in I thought, 'I've read this book'. Now that may not be fair. I haven't read MORE since then, and I may just have happened to pick the one that was most like her first (though I think it was her second). When 'In Her Shoes' came out as a movie I read reviews, and it sounded like even though there were several overlapping themes, it was good. And I should probably also confess that I approach Chick-Lit like sushi—I love it from time to time, but only if it is really fresh and handled perfectly. Otherwise it has made me nauseous often enough that I am afraid, especially in a land-locked location, but I digress.

But what about other authors? Grisham and his legal thrillers seems to have enough different twists that I've read maybe eight or nine of his without ever being bothered (I don't seek them out, mind you—I tend to run across them in the 'exchange books' places around work or on my mother's shelves). Anna Quindlen seems to strike a different enough story each time that her familiar voice hasn't worn on me (and she very nearly writes Chick-Lit). Nicholas Sparks on the other hand? Full at three, no matter HOW MUCH I adored The Notebook (again though—I take my romance in small doses).

How do the authors that hit it, hit it? Or am I the only one who grows annoyed if it is TOO familiar? Maybe this is why I prefer mainstream fiction to genre fiction for the most part—the genre stories have certain points all of them hit and I'd rather be surprised.  But besides that, add formula to the same voice and there is just only so much variation possible. I have also wondered if there is something to reading speed. I know many speed readers who consume a book a day and those people seem to me to only take away main points--the broad plot, a character or two, but they haven't read every word, so maybe the stylistic repetition isn't as wearing—maybe they don't even notice.  My husband wouldn't recognize subtext if it bit him because he just doesn't read that way.

I read every word—always have. It helps with retention for the non-fiction content I need to know, and I believe it helps with style in my own writing. But maybe it is also why I get tired of authors that don't shake it up enough.

Any thoughts?

Do you like familiarity?  Always?  Within limits?  And how do you read?

On a related note:  My survey from last week about hand versus computer... I've decided there are two primary factors:  the dominant one is what ELSE do you do on a computer?  If you do other creative endeavors, then writing via computer is fine.  If you do conflicting things... hand write.  Second is age.  Several older people prefer hand writing, even if for the sake of practicality, they don't do that all the time.

So there.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Depends on how much we want to be pushed? How much time we have to devote to something new and different? How lazy we are? :)

Very interesting topic, Hart. I'm tweeting this one and will be curious to read the comments.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Watery Tart said...

Thanks, Elizabeth! Looks like it has definitely bumped new views! Hopefully I am not irking too many people with my definite opinions on the matter...

I wonder too if people are pushed by different things. If I don't want to think, it is language that I prefer be direct and I have little patience for heavy descriptives... and I can't have too many characters or settings, but newness of anything doesn't feel complicated to me.

There is another aspect too... some people read to solve along with the protagonist, and I think I am rather more passive than that--I prefer to just be delighted as things unfold. So maybe the solvers need some predictability in the UNCHANGING pieces so they can attend to the changing ones.

Helen Ginger said...

I'm sure I' would be considered one of the older people, but I prefer computer. My hand writing has gone to crapiola, I do it so rarely.

Straight From Hel

Chary Johnson said...

I also like the direct rather than the heavy descriptives. However, I also like having many characters, settings time jumping (past, present, future or various combinations of the three).

Series tend to get stale for me after about the third book. I think the magic number for me is three and then I have to move on to a different genre and/ or different author.

*Kas* said...

I probably shouldn't even comment on this--I'm probably one of the worst people to ask because when it comes to books.. I'm just so easy to please. I can think of maybe two or three books I've ever put down halfway through. Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts, Terry Brooks' Shannara books, Anne McCaffrey's Pern books [sort of series, but there's soo many and they don't all fit together] oh yeah and Redwall! Anyways.. I could read so many and not get tired of them. Up until I started reading Harry Potter forums.. I never really analyzed what I was reading (thanks for that.. Tami, Tara, Rannaro..) so whatever I read I just sort of.. enjoyed.

Oh and I missed your poll about writing (I'm behind on your blogs) but as you know I'm one of those weirdos who defies your age thing. I'm really struggling to write straight to the computer with this NaNo thing. But maybe after this month I'll be better at it. Who knows?

(*apologies for the rambling..*)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Thursday Twin - thank you so much for telling me I am one of the 'older people'. And to think just a few months back, all my kids were still in pre-school!!!! But then, I do an indecent amount of non creative writing on the computer, so I can pretend that is the determining factor.

About multiple books by the same author... I have read all but two of James Michener's books, and those two I would read as soon as I get my hands on them. Nobody's formula could be more predictable than his- even his people are all the same, only they come from different backgrounds, and live in different times/ countries - but I still love reading him.
John Grishem with his legal thrillers. Again, you could predict the broad outline of the books, but they were different enough to all be readable (I like his non-formula books too).
Chick lit - I do like some writers, and I do like many books, but it is a factor of how I am feeling at that point of time, and the degree of maturity that has gone into the book.
Let's just say, some people manage to get it right, others don't.

Watery Tart said...

Helen and Kas, you two can trade spots on my age theory!

And Chary-I like complex books with tons of characters too--they just require me to have extra attention to follow, which when I'm writing, I don't seem to.

Kas-I was totally like you prior to immersion in the Potterverse--just follow along and enjoy... but now I parse things apart and get disgusted it the book isn't clearly following an interesting, surprising, yet in retrospect pre-ordained plan. I want to remember back and know the writer knew where they were headed, had planted hints. No God in a box for me!

Natasha, my twin-OF COURSE I was thinking about all your grants and such... definitely trump age, because you are NOT old.

Michiner is another that twists enough I can usually still enjoy-- though the 3rd of his 'location ones' I finally felt sort of overdone with... I LOVED the Source, Liked Alaska, and then the Covenant was great but sort of... the last I needed to read like that. Did I tell you my NaNo project is using his approach to timing though? Starting both at the beginning and toward the end at the same time... FUN!