Reading Writing Rant

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?

About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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8 Responses to Reading Writing Rant

  1. Jeanne says:

    Oh, you are SO right! ALL of those things would drive me nuts, and make me wonder what kind of an editor she had. It’s okay to read the same words/phrases two or three times, but not more than that!

    The first conversation about cats sounds like it was written for a third-grader. (See Spot. See Spot run. Run, Spot, run!) It’s possible to just have a conversation without saying ‘he said/she said after every line. Unless someone is yelling, screaming or crying (or laughing) what the person said is enough.

    And naming a bunch of different musical instruments that are similar but not the same is more confusing than just sticking with the same one. It sounds like neither one can make up their mind about which one to play or listen to. Not that it needs to be used in every single sentence.

    And I really don’t care what people are wearing or eating EVERY SINGLE DAY! I suppose you can just be thankful you didn’t have to watch the characters brush their teeth or go to the loo, but it seems some authors just throw in stuff to up the word count. ‘Word count’ is the key phrase here. Make every word count! If it’s not an integral part of the story or letting the reader know exactly what’s going on and where, we don’t need to hear about it..

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    • I can’t imagine any thinking reader not being annoyed by this…and it seems that very few editors earn their keep any more!
      I wish I could quote to you the actual words the person used and how far they reached,(of course, I made up the lines above).
      The clothes were not even interesting, nothing lavish or even kooky, not even b-o-r-i-n-g.
      Just ANNOYING.
      Thank you so much for visiting and adding to the discussion, Jeanne.

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  2. Jeanne says:

    I just got through reading last week’s article, and I’d like to add a bit about character development. I’m working with an author now on a fantasy/sci-fi type novel, but characters are integral to stories of EVERY genre. The book is written in first-person, so you only get to know the other characters through the main character’s eyes. It’s so well-written that I feel I actually know these people and how they would or would not react in a given situation, and I’ve even had discussions with the author when I felt that someone was acting out of character. We’ve had many long FB chats about plots, scenes, and which characters would do what. This is the first time I’ve ever been involved in a book at this stage, and been able to help create the story rather than just proofreading the finished product, and it’s been an amazing experience so far. I got the first rough draft that was a NoNoWriMo project, and it’s grown tremendously since then.

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  3. jeff7salter says:

    Well, I’m chuckling, of course, but also cringing. I suspect I’ve been guilty of several of these: especially searching for synonyms when a word keeps appearing. LOL.
    My editors and beta readers often tell me that I don’t have enough description, that my scenes are too spare. My beta reader calls it “adding sensory details.” One of my editors says I need to “enlarge” a scene.
    I usually try to do what they suggest, but I think it’s awfully subjective as to whether a reader wants to smell and taste a scene… and whether Scene Six in Act Two should remain brisk or slow down because I wrote it “larger”.

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    • Well, Jeff, I guess that’s the trick, huh? The difference between writing, good writing and great writing…it’s as tricky as putting on just enough perfume or aftershave. Enough to make it worth your while to bother, but not enough to set off asthmatics!
      I think we all have to find our own rhythm, but enough is enough from the books I discussed.

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  4. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Your rant echoes my peeves. I spent a few weeks reading a series that had a lot of action, and a fairly interesting plot, but the author felt it was necessary to let us know the hair color, eye color and height of each character the moment he or she was introduced. As for dialogue tags, I beta-read one like your first example – except it went on for a page and a half. I wrote to the author and (as politely as I could) asked her whether the characters were standing still for the entire conversation. And unless I’m reading a textbook or professional journal for research I don’t like to keep reaching for my dictionary. Maybe this column could be titled “How to Get Readers to NOT Finish Your Novel.”

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    • I love it! But I’m sure I’ll have more rants. The conversations ran like the above all through one book, Patty. One that was overly descriptive was published through a vanity press and was terrible, but the others were published through NY publishing houses. I don’t know if the public is dumbed-down or just that hungry for more and more works that they accept quantity over quality.

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