Learning from the mistakes of others

Had a rotten cold this week, so I’ve been up a lot in the middle of the night, draining, and used the opportunity to make a dent in my bookshelf. Read Kelly McCullough’s Cybermancy in one sitting. Really good stuff. Also read two other novels that I won’t mention by name because I’m going to tank on them a little.

There wasn’t anything wrong with these two other books. They were engaging; they were fun reads; I finished both books. But I won’t remember them for their extremely cool ideas, twisty plots or memorable characters (the way I will Cybermancy). I’ll remember them because there were relatively small but important things about each of them that bugged the hell out of me and prevented me from losing myself completely in the stories.

The first one suffered from info-dumps. Huge clots of exposition by the narrator which are designed to give the reader information that couldn’t be conveyed during the action of the story. They killed the pace of the story for me and made the first half of the novel a total slog. Beyond being pace-killing, they came off as slightly patronizing. A lot of them concerned events in previous novels in the series (which I’ve read and didn’t really need to be told again in exhausting detail). Some of them just seemed to suggest the reader is an idiot who can’t look something up for herself. An example that stands out in my mind is the paragraph-long explanation of the male protagonist’s pet-name for the narrator, dulceata, which basically boils down to “dear one.” Yannow, I could have figured that out for myself from the context, really. And if I couldn’t, there’s always Google. And each time the word was repeated throughout the book (which was a lot), I found myself wincing at the memory of that condescending explanation. Not a good way to read a book.

The other didn’t condescend to me quite as much, but it suffered from a more grievous sin, cheesy character names. I think there’s a lot of power in names. Names usually sum up a character for me. Indiana Jones, Holden Caulfield, Harry Dresden. Great names for great characters. Cheesy names for non-cheesy characters cheapen the character for me, and cheesy names for main characters — characters whose names are repeated often through the book — are like nails on a blackboard. Naming a half-mad vampire “Wroth” is cheesy. Bleh. Made me twitch every time I read it. For the record, twitching is not a good way to read a book, either.

Things to keep in mind as I learn more about this crazy craft called writing.

Author: ejfrostuk

Writer of sci-fi, urban fantasy and hard romance.

15 thoughts on “Learning from the mistakes of others”

      1. *hands over lotsa toddies!* πŸ˜€ Gotta look out for me Em-peep.

        I be not a big vampire fiction fan (I much prefer ghost stories! I must say I be loving the book Heart-shaped Box.) but I am waiting for a vampire to be named… Bob!

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        1. Thanks, ‘Bie!

          I go back and forth on vampire fic. I really, really, really, really (can you say, really?) loved Nancy Collins’s Sonya Blue vampire stories. Nothing else has quite measured up, but I continue to read vampire fic because hope spring eternal . . . well, except in Hell.

          “Heart-shaped Box” is beyond creepy, isn’t it?! The whole idea of the dead with their scribbled out eyes had my skin crawling. I have the book tucked up in the attic already because I kept stumbling over it on my bookshelf, seeing the picture of the dead with the crossed-out eyes and having nightmares. Woof!

          And a vampire named Bob, wow. I think that’s a story waiting to be written, baby! Where is it?!

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          1. *giggles! Really! πŸ˜€ I dunno why I never really got into vamp stories. I mean I’ll read some, like ToP’s fic but on the whole… I shall let the Em-Peep read’em for me.

            *bounces all over the place!* I’m not done with it yet but oh man it’s such a cool ghost story! I can see why he published under a pseudonym though. But I say so far he’s just as good as his Dad!

            LMAO! Bob the vampire lives somewhere in the Em-Peep’s head! I have a hard enough time with the two voices I be supposed to be keeping up with!

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            1. You’d be waitin’ a long time for me to read vampire stories for you, baby. I’m barely reading a book a week at the moment (seriously slow for me) while I’m pushing on Neon Blue, and none of it vampire fiction. I’m enjoying what I am reading right now, though: “Codespell,” by Kelly McCullough.

              I hadn’t focused on the fact that Joe Hill was Stephen King’s son when I was reading the book, but I agree, he does live up to his pedigree!

              Bob the Vampire does not live in my head, happily. I’ll leave that story for you, but don’t let it slow you down on crazy Alice or Kat!!

              Time for another hot toddy, and then to bed.

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              1. Tis okay me Em-Peep! I’d much rather ya be workin’ on Em-Peep stuffs than readin’ vamp stories! πŸ˜€

                I was thinkin’ about the pressure as a writer if ya Dad was SK! LOL!

                Speakin’ o’ voices… I be in hidin’!

                *hands over another toddy and then flees!*

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                1. Heya!

                  At this point, I’d rather be writing than reading vamp stories. The last couple have been disappointing.

                  I really can’t imagine the pressure of having a parent who is successful in the field I’ve chosen. Or the weirdness of it. My parents are successful in their own fields, which I have carefully avoided. I have trouble talking about my writing to my husband, who knows nothing about it and is supportive in a wholly disinterested way. I’d go nuts trying to talk about my writing to a family member who knew the craft intimately and already had huge success in the field. Urg, no.

                  So you’re hiding from the muse, huh? That only works for so long, you know. Then she tends to track you down, and take her revengies . . .

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                  1. Herro you!

                    I’d rather you be writin’ too! Ya words or my words, whichever. πŸ˜€

                    Ya hubby sounds like the Greg! Though ever since his aunt Cindy said I was pretty good he’s been worryin’ me to write an original. Yes I be all O.O!

                    Twas hidin’ for the EM-Peep πŸ˜€ but seems Kat took the idea of revenge and ran with it. Now she be babbling about “Kat’s Bedtime Stories – Beauty and The Big Bald Bastard.” *shaking head*

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                    1. Mostly my words. You need to write your own. Besides, even if I tried, I couldn’t write “bie.” You’ve got a style all your own, baby.

                      You should try something original! I think that’s a great idea. Let me see it when it’s drafted!!

                      I love Kat’s idea of a bedtime story. You should write it out as an adjunct to “Lips, Hips…”!

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                    2. *giggles!* It was worth a shot! Since I be no quitter, I must point out that if ya did me words, there’d be plots! πŸ˜€

                      If I do an original me Em-peep, ya know I shall have to worry ya first about it.

                      Ya supposed to talk me outta these ideas LOL! But… *sigh* suggest a fairy/bedtime story. πŸ˜€

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                    3. You have plots! They’re just . . . non-linear. Which I actually find fascinating. And you’re following in the footsteps of giants. Quentin Tarantino. Orson Wells. James Joyce. Kurt Vonnegut. Irvine Welsh. Akira Kurosawa. They all used non-linear plots to great effect. And so do you. πŸ™‚

                      If you write an original, I’d better be the first you worry about it!

                      And no, I’m not talking you out of any good ideas. I think Beauty and the Big Bald Bastard is a great bedtime story. Can’t wait to see it written. πŸ˜›

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                    4. Herro you! How ya doin’ me Em-peep?

                      *whew!* But man… another good way to get ya to do me words shot down in flames! πŸ˜€

                      Ya shall be me Em-Peep! I trust ya judgment and I know ya shall bop me as needed.

                      Ya are a very evil Em-Peep! πŸ˜€

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                    5. Hey, baby,

                      ‘Bie, I will never, ever do your words. Ever. Nice try, though.

                      And I will always bop you as need, although you rarely need it.

                      Get writing. πŸ™‚

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                    6. *big hugs!* Herro you!

                      But I shall always try ’cause you would worry. πŸ˜€

                      *whew!* YAY! I do need me Em-peep!

                      I be startin’! And-and you too! πŸ˜€

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