Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What to leave out

I’d like to go back to John’s blog posting of last Thursday (See “Using a Cleaver to Create”) because it’s taken up a lot of my “thought-time” this past week.

I did leave a comment to his fine post addressing my feeling that perhaps Patterson’s cleaver swings a bit too freely, positing that the writer might possibly become annoyingly relentless in his prose in his quest for pushing the action to the max. I do believe there’s a middle ground that is still valuable and warranted where a bit of descriptive back-story or relaxation of the pace can supply the reader with breather from all the action. The Patterson novels I’ve read (two, I believe, and no, I can’t recall the names, nor much about the story lines – in itself a telling point) did proceed at a stinkingly fast pace. They were fun reads – but then I have to admit that I also enjoyed reading The DaVinci Code, despite its obvious writing flaws. With both Patterson and Brown, when I got to the final page and caught my breath, I wondered why I had been so pulled along by the story that I just had to finish the book. My state of mind made me think of eating too much of something, and as you begin to feel sick, asking yourself why you’d done it.

It’s a great trick to pull a reader along with that kind of force, but is it great, memorable writing?

Nearly every writer I’ve ever spoken with has struggled with overwriting. John is correct when he says that a lot of times it is due to the writer’s ego. I mean, we’ve got to face it: we love to talk and most of us think we’re good at it, or we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing. That being said, I try very hard to find a balance between action and description, intense forward plot motion and more introspective bits. I also treat them as two very separate sections and try very hard never to mix them. My goal is to have two thirds to three quarters of my novels action with the remainder of the story being more descriptive/introspective – but always with a mind to amplifying my characters’ personalities and motivations.

Now if the proof is in the pudding – in this case, sales – and I can’t begin to hold a candle to someone like James Patterson. So who am I to say anything against him? For my answer, look at the paragraph above this one. Sometimes we can’t keep our big mouths shut!


Hannah Dennison said...

I find that Patterson and Brown feel like a ride at Disneyland - you hang on for grim death and it's fun while it lasts ... but it's over in a flash. Many years ago (before Brown's Da Vinci code) a friend gave me a 500 page m/s written by an ex-monk telling the exact same story but a gazillion times better. I have never forgotten that version and often wonder what happened-- I felt so disappointed for the ex-monk who had spent 10 years writing it.

Rick Blechta said...

One hears these stories every now and then, and yes, it must be awfully hard to take. Wonder whatever happened to that ms. Sometimes I think there should be a place where these mss could go. Maybe self-published e-books would work.

As for your amusement park ride analogy, that is a very good one. I think the telling thing is that I can barely remember anything about those Patterson books I read. I remember a night spent finishing one of them, and totally screwing up the rest of my week as a result, just to finish riding to the end. No memory of the book past that remains.

termpaperwriter.org said...
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