On this, a ‘free’ week, I have chosen to talk about writing and reading. Last week we asked readers what they want to see in romance novels and many times, we were told what readers did not want to see in any novels.
There is an ocean of books out, a sea of cozies, be they romance or mysteries. Many are good, if not always great. Almost all are enjoyable, but often one must overlook a few points.
Sometimes the characters are too good to be true; that gets boring. Sometimes the protagonist is completely unlikable; I never enjoy those books. Usually there is a decent mix of characters, but I would like to discuss several books that I recently read that were not bad, but could have been better.
I would never call out an author by name unless the work was ugly or filled with something I considered harmful. The books I will discuss were fair stories written by nice people, so bear with me not being specific.
Two of the books continually gave descriptions of what everyone was wearing, Unless the work is a period piece, unless the attire has some real significance to the story, it needs to be cut back. In my yet-to-be-finished novel, I do describe some clothing, but it has to do with someone being unsure of what to wear in certain situations. I note the obvious luxury in some clothing and the uniforms of others in what I think is integral to the story. I don’t believe it is excessive.( Beta readers or an editor my disagree.) However, in the ones I mentioned the protagonist is in modern-day wear and wears nearly the same types of outfits every day, be they working, socializing or doing some physical exercise, the same three types of outfits were described every day of the stories, (with nightwear sometimes thrown in). Their shoes were nothing outstanding but every shoe on every character were mentioned. Except in situations where footwear is remarkable, inappropriate or a part of a character’s character, let’s keep the brand names and styles on the rack, shall we?
And the food. I have been berated for not adding more food to my novel because people know me as a “foodie”, but it is not a story about food. I added some because my main characters are in an exotic locale and the foods are new, but I don’t believe that the amount is overbearing. (Again, readers and editors may tell me to change it, and I will.) In a couple of books I’ve read, we are privy to every bite that our main character eats or is tempted to eat, and everything anyone around her puts in their mouths. How many times did we have to hear that a certain edible that was served at every weekly meeting was eaten by which people? Not that anyone was poisoned by it. It was really annoying.
In one, the protagonist was in a certain career and the same two modern terms of jargon used in her field were repeated over and over again. I was embarrassed for the author because in a few years, when new terminology replaces the very “in” phrases she kept repeating, this work will be dated very quickly and badly.
Another book I want to discuss is a high number in a series that is a big-seller, I have no idea why. Her characters were inconsistent and unrealistic, but most of all, her wording drove me insane.
As a writer, unlike the first book’s author, I try not to continually use the same terms often; it’s repetitious and isn’t interesting; it’s one of the first lessons a writer should learn.
You shouldn’t write:
“Come in with me while I feed my cat”, she said.
“I didn’t know you had a cat,” he said.
“Yes, I’m very fond of cats”, she said.
“ When I grew up we raised cats”, he said
“Then you’ll like my cat”, she said.
“Hello, little cat!’ he said.
The second author, however, seems to have a phobia about it. It’s OK to show a little vocabulary, just don’t empty-out your thesaurus.
Indulge me while I parody a scene that may have appeared in her book:
“Come in with me while I feed the kitten”, she ordered him.
“I didn’t know that you had a cat”, he proclaimed.
“Yes, I’m very fond of felines,” she explained.
“Oh, Felis domestica! I grew up in a cattery”, he bragged.
“Then you’ll enjoy my tabby!”, she exclaimed
“Hello, little tiger!”, he called out.
“He is my darling little Gato!”, she cried.
“This one does seem like a sweet little mouser! Look at the size of the furball’s feet! It’s going to be a big kitty,” he claimed.
“Uh-huh. I expect this pussy will become a good-sized tom”, she retorted.
“Come here, you miniature animal-the-Egyptians-worshipped”, he cooed.
All right, so I exaggerated a bit, but not much. You get the idea. Even in simple conversations you might read something like:
“Do you like Xylophone music?”
“Oh, indeed! I am always fond of a good glockenspiel tune.”
“Would you like to hear me play the marimba?”
“You mean the vibraphone?”
She reached so hard and far to use new phraseology within a conversation that it was not only irritating, it sent me to the dictionary a few times just to verify the synonyms, which were sometimes a little off, just for the sake of being different ever, single time, or to throw in every related noun she could find.
These are my peeves of the month. May I have your input on my rant?