Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Some progress...

So yesterday, still stumped with my plot, I decided to adapt a technique a friend of mine used a few years ago to decide between which story to tell next. She gave her characters time to say why their story should be told and chose the most persuasive one. Now I don't have that problem, but I figured maybe I should have Henri and Madeleine tell me about their story - so I started with Madeleine. So far it's going ok. Hopefully it will help me focus on what's working and what isn't.

Have you ever read a book and skipped most of a chapter because the author annoyed you with one particular detail? I did this on the weekend, after picking up a women's fiction historical (kinda a saga, but not really, as it only covers 10 years) at a fund-raising sale for the local orchestra. It was going along pretty well, then the author chose a really (IMHO) stupid way to break up the heroine and her great love. The Big Misunderstanding. This annoyed the hell out of me and I ALMOST gave up on the book completely. BUT, I really wanted to see how the story developed otherwise, so I just skipped the really annoying section and continued on. And finished reading it last night. Overall it was a very compelling story, even though aspects of it did rather strain credulity - the number of coincidences were pretty high.

In the end I asked myself WHY I finished - what was it about the story that kept me going. Especially as the heroine was one of those beautiful women who doesn't know it, who everyone loves and all the men fall for, who makes good in a spectacular manner. You know what kept me reading? Her goal. She had a really, really strong goal and I wanted to see a) if she actually achieved it and b) how she went about getting to that point.

So, there we are - hook a reader with a compelling enough goal and the reader will keep going, even if other aspects of your tale aren't so good. (Please note - the book is not either of those listed below.)

What lessons have you learned from reading other people's work?

Teresa

Currently Reading: The Adventurous Bride by Miranda Jarrett
Also Currently Reading: Dark Angels by Karleen Koen
Link of the Day: Prep that Book! by Gaelen Foley
BONUS LINK OF THE DAY: Great advice from Agent Kristin Nelson

6 comments:

Rene said...

I read a book this weekend that I was really looking forward to and about died with irritation. I was so bummed because I had such high expectations, but this book was just dreadful. Plot lines were stupid, too much sex (all pointless) and the characters were cardboard. Sorry, had to get that off my chest. And yes, I skipped parts. I love hot, sexy books, but I kept skipping the sex in this book because it was boring and added nothing to the plot or characters. I wasn't hooked at all. I'm just glad I didn't buy the second book in the series.

Tess said...

Rene - that always sucks. I've had it happen and I'm often tempted to launch the book at the wall. But that's not fair to the wall *g*. Hope you find something better to read :-)

carrie_lofty said...

I tend to find cliches, and not just "find the silver lining" or "a muscle cleched in his jaw" style phrase. More like cliched devices. A woman looking in a mirror so the author can describe the physical traits. Describing a tence silence in a room by mentioning how the clock ticking becomes noticeable. A heroine tripping and falling into the hero's arms. Just ANYTHING that I've used, partly out of laziness, that I see in someone else's work. If it sounds hackneyed when I read it elsewhere, I take the ax to mine :)

I'm having plotting issues, too. Sigh....

Chris Soth said...

At the far end of this lies the madness of letting other works influence you TOO MUCH...I used to have a manager that called me every Monday and pitch me a narrowly disguised version of whatever the number one movie had been that weekend.

Melissa Marsh said...

Y'know, sometimes I have skipped through most of the book to find out what happens in the end if something totally throws me off but I still want to know the ending. To my thinking, there are way too many books out there that need to be read. I'm not going to waste my time on those that aren't good.

Kelly said...

One thing I've learned is never confuse the reader in the first chapter. I picked up an author I hadn't read yet, but was really looking forward to trying and was so confused by the head hopping and characters acting with no apparent motivation in the first chapter that I put down the book and gave the other two of hers I picked up away.