I have this gig where I make summaries for new books that come out- a shortcut, if you like, for those who want to appear bookish without actually reading the damn thing. Or perhaps they are just looking to see if the actual book is worth their time.
This book I'm currently writing the summary for is absolutely dreadful. It isn't worth anyone's time. For the sake of protecting the Duck from any flak caught by sour creators or their army of editors, I won't say which one it is. What I will say, is that it is by a New York Times bestselling author.
And it's eye-wateringly terrible. It reads worse than a Twilight fanfiction. There is no basic rule of writing that isn't trampled on with the excitement of a three-year old on a trampoline.
I was so shocked reading through it that I went to the Amazon reviews after, and saw that apparently, this book was the worst for me to get to know the particular author. Many of her fans were complaining that it was dreadful and not like her previous ones. (Ok enough hints. You get no more! Ok except maybe the plot. And stuff. But no more.)
On the other hand, this book is a gem- it's a perfect storm of everything a writer should not do wrapped up in one ‘story’. And it demonstrates perfectly why every story NEEDS A PLOT.
Supposedly, the particular book's premise is a passionate romance that spans more than twenty years between a very weird woman and a very stupid man- they only meet once a year for a weekend, and then separate and go about their lives in parallel.
The entire book is this yearly meeting, as they ‘grow old together apart’ doing this ritual and pining for each other, passionately in love, only to also have other parallel lives: she sleeps with every male in sight that gives her even the slightest attention, and when they get too serious, she breaks up with them. He is married to a workaholic anorexic woman he ‘never wanted to marry’ and which he totally did because reasons.
In the end, after several years pass in this situation, the woman dies.
That's the book. You get to watch the exact same ‘idyllic weekend’ with slight variations in dialogue, over and over, and then she dies. She doesn't learn anthing; she doesn't change in any way; she's exactly the same person she was in her twenties, as she is in her fifties when she dies. No character changes in any way. The situation they have with the ‘true love’ is one they both want, and don't try to change or develop in any way.
The entire thing is more static than a puddle in a country road pot hole.
As a result, many readers reported that for the first time they counted how many chapters they had left until the end, or just gave up on the book and didn't finish it. (I did because I'm getting paid, or I wouldn't have gone past chapter 3)
The thing is, the author totally thinks she has a plot going. You can tell from how she talks about ‘the story’ in her author's note.
But she doesn't.
Because a plot needs to have these elements in order to exist:
1. The main characters must need or really want something that they don't have.
2. The main characters must encounter obstacles to obtaining what they need.
3. The main characters must actively engage in actions that are aimed to overcoming those obstacles.
4. The main characters must eventually fail or succeed in overcoming the obstacles, hopefully also learning something that develops them so they are not exactly the same people they were when they started.
A plot also needs to have a beginning, middle and end- no matter how these are arranged in the telling of the story, they do need to exist as stages. Growing old living in the exact same situation that you like, maintain, and don't develop is NOT A PLOT. Even if you pretend not to like something that is in your power to change, but you don't change it even when opportunities to do it literally fall on your lap.
So; remember people. Write a plot. A story without a plot is a body without bones: just a shapeless mass of flesh.
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, July 18, 2020
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