||[Dec. 22nd, 2011|12:02 pm]
Just finished reading a book. While the storyline was interesting enough, I have to say it's reminded me of why I want to be an editor. No, there weren't spelling mistakes or punctuation errors running rampant, but it's more that in an attempt for drama, or perhaps humour, or maybe even just writing style, the author treated his audience like complete idiots.
Now, I realise that one of the key things in writing is to explain an idea fully - behave as though your audience has no background knowledge, often phrased as "imagine your readers are stupid". But there's a point at which you're going too far. Not so far that the critics pay any attention, as apparent by the muliple awards listed on the back of this book, but far enough to make me sit up and take notice. The main incident of this was in a particular reveal: X character is the son of Important Person! How would you go about doing that? Maybe when he's mentally disparaging the [family] guards, make him sound personally bitter about them rather than bitter from a distance! Maybe when he's being interviewed by someone and gives his full name, have them point out that name is significant! Maybe when he's in trouble have him mention his father doing something about "all this"! Maybe even point it out directly! Or what about all of those! Brilliant! Wonderful! ò_ó
The thing is that eventually, with all reveals that are central to the plot, you need to spell it out, so there's no confusion for the audience. But when you've made it absolutely obvious with hints before the reveal, the reveal itself kind of falls flat. "My father is the Emperor!" Yeah, kid, I kind of realised that a chapter or two ago. In fact, as soon as the guy said "Oh, really? That's a royal name!" I realised, and the whining about your father just rubbed that fact into my face in a nauseatingly contrived way.
I think I wouldn't mind so much, but the layout of the book was different to most, in that there were a lot of double line-breaks between paragraphs. In books, you get your classic new line + indent format rather than the gaps I tend to put into my writing (see paragraph format here), but in this book they used the new line + indent, and also in the case of switching perspective or a small gap in time or something particularly dramatic being said, they put in a gap between the paragraphs. I get that it's meant to add drama, but when you have four or five or them per chapter it just seems tacky. Drama, drama, drama. And it means that when you reveal something I figured out a chapter ago and then add in your big dramatic pause, I just feel as though you're expecting me to clap at something that really doesn't impress me.
There were other things, too, that I would have changed if I'd been editing that book - descriptions that postured and posed too much, explanations that were too far away from what they were supposed to be explaining, characters who were understated despite their importance to the storyline (although, from the looks of it, one of them has been set up as a villian in the next book or one after that, and maybe that's why he didn't get a lot of looking into this time around - still, could have been handled better). It was pretty much a minefield for my editor-y sensibilities. But the story was interesting. There was one view-point character I found capable and believable, while the others were, well, almost comical . . . but without being funny. I hope they weren't meant to be funny. One of the reviews on the back said it was, but it was so clumsily done that I don't want it to be.
In short, I am not reading the sequel, even to find out if that under-developed character is going to be developed the way he should have been in the first book, but I am glad I finished reading it. I consider it research into what can be considered publishing standards and why. I mean, I did finish reading it, so it can't have been that terrible. I'm sure there are many, many other people whose standards aren't the same as mine who thoroughly enjoyed it.