deird1: Fred reading a book (Fred book)
[personal profile] deird1
Here, in no particular order, are various things that really annoy me in novels:


1) Destiny

Not in the sense of Destiny Affects The World In Cool Destinyish Ways. The Belgariad, for one, did that quite well.

No, the thing that annoys me is when Our Heroine spots a Gorgeous Man, and is instantly attracted to him for no discernible reason. ...and then he turns out to be Our Hero.

Seriously, why are these women so brilliant at this? Do they have Protagonist Spotting Radar? Are they super-sensitive to the almighty hand of Destiny? Why do they always know who the important characters will be the moment they see them?


2) A Sanitised World; Now With Less Germy Horribleness

You see this a fair bit in Christian Fiction (TM). It is, after all, Christian literature, so we can't have anything unpleasant in there. Like violence. Or sex. Or suspect movies. Or unhealthy food. Or swearing.

The example that annoyed me the most was in a book where one of the characters said something dreadful, and the other character (and I quote) "said a foul word that expressed what he thought of that".
He clearly said "bullshit". We know perfectly well that he said "bullshit". You're the author - either actually use the word, or get the character to say something else that isn't swearing! Really!

The reason this gets on my nerves so much is because violence (or whatever) does actually happen. I don't have a problem with writing a story that is happy and fluffy and has no violence; but writing a story that explicitly excludes violence on the grounds that "nice people shouldn't think about such things" is leaving people unprepared to deal with the world if they should ever encounter real-life violence. Nice people shouldn't only have opinions on nice things.


3) Good People Are Good

...and because they are good, they do good things, they have good thoughts, they watch good movies, and they agree about everything.

This leads to main characters who all have the exact same taste in food, movies, and everything else. It also means that, if you're trying to figure out who Our Heroes are likely to be (see: #1 in this list), you can just look at which people share the most opinions in common with the author.

I read a novel (actually pretty fun) set in Ancient Rome once: in a group of three doctors, one thought that sickness was the result of offending the gods, one thought it was due to an imbalance of the humours, and one thought it was due to teeny tiny little creatures spreading germs. Guess which one ended up being the protagonist?


4) The Book (new) Of The Film (old)

Particularly when it's a kids tv series.

I first discovered this when I was twelve. There was this brilliant tv show, and these brilliant books about the same kids! I watched two episodes, and then I read three of the books, then I saw a couple more episodes, then I read a few more books...

...and then I saw an episode. And read a book. And realised what they were doing.

You see, they had this awesome sequence on the tv show, that went something like this:
(Please note - the following sequence is totally made up out of my twisted imagination.)
Our Heroes are sneaking into the circus to stop the killer robots. First Mike runs cautiously across the ring; then Tammy.

Mike: "Tammy! I think I've spotted the robot overlord!"

Tammy: "Oh no! I think the robot overlord has spotted me!"

The robot overlord turns and fixes Tammy in its laser sights; Tammy screams; Mike picks up his portable supercomputer and starts hacking the overlord's systems...


And then the novel went something like this:
Tammy and Mike started sneaking into the circus to stop the killer robots. Mike ran cautiously across the ring. Then Tammy did.

Suddenly, Mike spotted the robot overlord. "Tammy!" he called, "I think I've spotted the robot overlord!"

Then the robot overlord turned and fixed Tammy in its laser sights.

"Oh no!" Tammy cried. "I think the robot overlord has spotted me!"

Tammy screamed. But Mike picked up his portable supercomputer and started hacking the overlord's systems...


It's exactly the same thing! Word for word!

Of course, it's not just restricted to kids books. I bought a new Agatha Christie novel once, only to find out that it was written by someone else, and adapted from one of her plays. That in itself wouldn't have been a problem, except that the novel writer clearly hadn't put much imagination into it. So the whole thing went:
(Also totally made up, and the strike outs are purely sarcasm.)
Sandra picked up her wine glass, and walked stage left across the room. Then she turned to face Andrew, and said in a challenging voice "Why do you suspect me of the murder?"
"I've already told you I don't," Andrew said. Then he moved upstage to the window...


You can't write like that. Books should work differently from stage performances, which work differently from tv shows, which work differently from epic poems, which work different from films, which work differently from interpretive dances - because they are different things. You can't just transpose stories word-for-word from one medium to another.



...this concludes today's ranting. Questions? Comments?


Date: 2011-01-30 10:41 pm (UTC)
curiouswombat: (Default)
From: [personal profile] curiouswombat
and the other character (and I quote) "said a foul word that expressed what he thought of that".

Good grief!

Date: 2011-01-31 06:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] klme.livejournal.com
Rivers?

Date: 2011-01-31 06:57 am (UTC)
zeborah: Fezzes are cool.  Amy and River blow it up. (cool)
From: [personal profile] zeborah
I actually like this technique. But then, it's not Christian fiction that I've encountered it in, but just books of a certain era. I think originally it just meant that the author acknowledged that such foul words were indeed used, but also knew that a respectable publisher would never print them. If used in Christian fiction, I imagine the reasoning is fairly similar...

When used in other contexts nowadays, it can be for humour, or to evoke the time when it was done without humour. I've just used it myself (“His Most Serene Highness cursed that Princess’s name savagely.")... I guess for the latter reason - I was innocently writing along, and it seemed to me that this was the phrasing that my implied narrator would use – although I guess it was also partly because the curse in question would sound even more ludicrous to modern ears if I spelt it out.

Of course it can always be done badly: that is, when the effect of coyness works against rather than with the author's intentions. But I hope it's not a bad thing in itself, because I love any technique that plays with even mild unreliability of narrative.
Edited (fixing speech recognition artefacts) Date: 2011-01-31 06:58 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-01-30 10:46 pm (UTC)
beer_good_foamy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] beer_good_foamy
4) The Book (new) Of The Film (old)

Many years ago, I wanted to buy my sister Dracula for Christmas. So I went to a bookshop, I found a book that said BRAM STOKER DRACULA, picked it up and headed for the register. Just before I was about to pay for it I looked closer at the cover and realised that it wasn't Bram Stoker's Dracula but Bram Stoker's Dracula - the novelization of the film Bram Stoker's Dracula, based on Bram Stoker's Dracula but guaranteed to not contain one single word actually written by Bram Stoker. (Though possibly containing one or two adlibs by Keanu Reeves.)

I didn't buy the book. Though later I sort of wish I had because now nobody believes me.

Date: 2011-01-30 11:13 pm (UTC)
ruuger: Londo from Babylon 5 and the text: "And now for something completely different - a Centauri with seven tentacles" (B5: Something completely different)
From: [personal profile] ruuger
I've seen that book!

There also exists Isaac Asimov's I, Robot Based on the screenplay of the hit movie starring Will Smith.

Date: 2011-01-31 05:20 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] urania_calliope
I remember being confused when I heard that film was coming out. "How are you going to make a movie about several unconnected short stories?"

Date: 2011-01-30 11:03 pm (UTC)
velvetwhip: (Bobby Ewing)
From: [personal profile] velvetwhip
and the other character (and I quote) "said a foul word that expressed what he thought of that".

Oh my fucking fluffy stars!


Gabrielle

Date: 2011-01-31 12:15 am (UTC)
stultiloquentia: Campbells condensed primordial soup (Default)
From: [personal profile] stultiloquentia
He clearly said "bullshit". We know perfectly well that he said "bullshit".

I feel the same way about radio censors in the US that insert beeps or, even better, remove the second half of the curse word, so you're left with, for instance, Trent Reznor singing, "I wanna phh-- you like an animal / I wanna feel you from the inside." I wanna facepalm forever.

Date: 2011-01-31 12:17 am (UTC)
cereta: Julie MacKenzie as Miss Marple (Miss Marple)
From: [personal profile] cereta
OMG, I started that Agatha Christie! And couldn't continue it!

Date: 2011-01-31 12:33 am (UTC)
goldenusagi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] goldenusagi
No, the thing that annoys me is when Our Heroine spots a Gorgeous Man, and is instantly attracted to him for no discernible reason. ...and then he turns out to be Our Hero.

This drives me up the wall. The first man the protagonist meets is the Love Interest. It happens all the time in TV, too. Seriously, though, is this some sort of writing rule I'm not aware of? Is the heroine allowed to encounter another character before she encounters the Love Interest?

Date: 2011-01-31 11:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] watchingtheaeroplanes.blogspot.com
In fairness, this is probably because there's no story until these two people meet. If we'd read a few chapters (or nearly a whole book — I'm looking at you, Victor Hugo) of Our Heroine's Normal Boring Life before she meets Our Hero, we'd be thinking "what was the point of all that?" If we'd been following Our Heroine and she notices a guy who someone *else* immediately falls for, we'd be wondering why that someone else isn't Our Heroine instead.

It doesn't mean they haven't met other people before; it just means that those meetings aren't relevant to the story being told. It makes sense for the protagonists to be the ones who do things, and for the telling of a tale to begin at its beginning. In that sense, it is some sort of writing rule.

Exceptions can work, of course. I've mentioned Hugo, and Fitzgerald does the latter very well in The Great Gatsby; but in these cases the exception is in itself part of the point of the work.

Date: 2011-01-31 06:50 am (UTC)
verity: quizzical buffy lying in in bed (buffy (huh what?))
From: [personal profile] verity
These things are all TERRIBLE. OMG. Put the book down and WALK AWAY SLOWLY levels of... yeah.

I read a novel (actually pretty fun) set in Ancient Rome once: in a group of three doctors, one thought that sickness was the result of offending the gods, one thought it was due to an imbalance of the humours, and one thought it was due to teeny tiny little creatures spreading germs. Guess which one ended up being the protagonist?
lol

Date: 2011-01-31 11:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] watchingtheaeroplanes.blogspot.com
Nice people shouldn't only have opinions on nice things.

AMEN.

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deird1: lilac flowers, with text "how do they rise up" (Default)
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