Monday, November 9, 2015

That Thing You Do


This is inspired by a little conversation I had recently that got me thinking about what the absolute essential thing is that makes us love a book, and how that has inspired our writing. Is it an MC you fall in love with (whether romantically or otherwise?) Is it beautiful language? Is it the character ARC? Is it a plot that surprises? Is it elegance? Because this stuff is all a matter of taste. Even within these there are taste differences, but I think all of us have one of these elements we care about a lot more than the other. Now there are things about the OTHER elements that can make me put a book down:

No Bella; Yes Forest
A stupid MC (though a character like a Forest Gump who has wisdom even with limited knowledge I can grab a hold of—I mean someone who just doesn't think... doesn't try to. And so does stupid stuff.) I want all the STUPID to have a reason that is not just an idiocy of character. (side characters can be stupid—stupid DOES happen)

Worse than stupid is a BORING MC (think Bella Swann), though I recently read a disappointing Margaret Atwood book (Bodily Harm) with a boring MC, and what distinguished her was she was not ACTING. Stuff was just happening TO HER. Yeah, none of that, thanks.

In terms of language, I love it if it's beautiful, but if too much is too beautiful it pulls me out of the story. Sort of like life, I prefer my beautiful trickled. Otherwise it sticks to the roof of your mouth. But far worse than TOO beautiful is clunky or error-ridden. I just can't ignore poor grammar and am only a little willing to ignore a couple typos.

I like character growth, but depending on the plot, it isn't always necessary. But ME?


I'M A PLOT GIRL

I like a plot with some twists and surprises but DO NOT like a plot where the twists come out of left field. I know in life some events do that, but they are the sort of events that precipitate a story. Not the sort that totally change it mid-stream. I LOVE when something happens and it makes me shout “I KNEW IT!” but one page earlier it would not have come to mind... some little seed was planted, but the hints as it grew were elegantly hidden except in the smallest of peeks.


IN MY WRITING

What this means to me is I HAVE to have some sort of timeline. The big events need to me conceived before I get started. I need to be working toward them. In mysteries I actually diagram... who are my suspects, what are their motives, what clues with the MC discover to connect each of them as a potential killer? From there it is more like a puzzle than a magic act. Oh, I still surprise myself, and I let myself add or change. Plans are not set in stone. Even a written story is not set in stone—stuff can be built in later. But I need most of it to at least hit the main plot points I started with.


As to That...

I am at about the halfway mark for NaNoWriMo and it is going well. I have reached the part where it gets harder, but hey, I always know 3rd quarter is my biggest struggle. I am enough ahead that I only NEED to write about 1200 words a day from here on out, though I'd prefer to be closer to the 60K mark at the end of the month. A rewrite is worth 10-15K added in, and I really need to be over 70K when I am done.


How about all of you? What component of a book is the “must” for you? And how has it influenced your writing? And if you are NaNoing, how is it coming?

15 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hart - I have to be happy with the concept and idea of the book - usually something to do with history, or reference - then I'll be a cheerful reader. I don't like weak or waffly characters or books ...

Good luck finishing off NaNo ... well done so far .. cheers Hilary

M.J. Fifield said...

I have to like a character. I can read just about anything if I find a character somewhere in that story that I like.

Your NaNoWriMo progress is super impressive! I started four days late, but have managed to just stay on par so far.

mshatch said...

character is king in my book. If they're interesting enough I'll follow them almost anywhere but I'll be disappointed if it ends up being nowhere.

Love the plot twist pic, lol.

Yolanda Renee said...

I'm a plotter too, although I like my characters, I'm sure some don't. You can't please everyone, but no excuse for boring!
Congrats on NaNo - I'm almost halfway done too, and anxious to get to the re-write. Scenes I've already written are screaming for a re-write, but can't look back, must trudge forward.

Arlee Bird said...

Style--or language--is the main thing for me. Characters and plot line can be frustrating, but the writing style is the main thing that keeps me going and getting past any other flaws. If I can read comfortably, or at least fall into the rhythm of the writing, then I'm usually good for the duration of a book.

Great progress on your NaNo writing. Keep at it!

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Good stuff on your NaNo quest!
I think the characters come first and then plot. If I'm not into the characters, it doesn't matter how good the story.

Southpaw HR Sinclair said...

I love plot twists too. It's the planting of the clues that is so hard - can't make them too easy and can't make them too hard!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

The relationships in a book will keep me reading: friendship, love, humorous banter -- they will keep reading no matter the plot.

May you finish NaNo and not the other way around! :-)

Andrew Leon said...

I think I tend toward characters, but...
Well, there's this plot thing, too.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

In one of my writing groups, we have use the acronym TSTL (too stupid to live) for those characters that ruin a book. Congrats on the word count for NaNo.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Congrats on your NaNo progress.

I like to know all the twists before I begin but I'm more about the characters.

Helena said...

Dumb or passive women drive me nuts, as does bad writing. I want my characters to drive the action, not just stand there and be punching bags for whatever life or other people is throwing at them.

Thanks for warning me off the latest Margaret Atwood book. As for Bella--I read a few pages of her and gave up. What a whiner.

G. B. Miller said...

Plot and character work for me. Biggest turnoff is having an obnoxious MC. A few months ago, I tried reading a book about vampires that was set in 1970's NYC, but the MC was obnoxious and annoying that I gave up after 1 1/2 chapters.

Father Nature's Corner

Cathrina Constantine said...

Sounds like you're doing well with NaNo! Wishing you luck. I rarely plot. I take tiny steps that can be exasperating...

I also have to like the characters and an engaging story, even the nasty bad guys. Writing an evil character is interesting. One that people can't get enough of.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

One of the things I hate is when a character is suddenly changed from his or her usual personality just because of a sudden situation eg. battle, romance. Yes there can be changes but a tomboy can't turn into a girly girl in two seconds or a quiet boy into a warrior out of the blue with zero set up or explanation. I am not talking about being surprised or a secret readers find out a bit later. I mean with no context at all. It's just ridiculous.

Congrats on reaching so far in your Nano. I got into Twilight through the books and love the series myself. But I get Bella is not everyone's cup of tea.