Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The challenging read

Once again, I'm reading a book that I'm not sure I'm into. I was really looking forward to this book, mostly because of the setting--it's in a time and place that I find very interesting but is a bit unusual for historical fiction. Also, the main character is very different from me, and I was looking forward to a different viewpoint.

None of that is the problem. The problem is the plot. As in, there isn't much of one. I reached page 50 wondering why I wasn't more enthusiastic about this story, and then I realized: What story? Nothing's happening. We had descriptions of the main character and descriptions of where he lives and where he works and where he hangs out when he is not working, and there were descriptions of his relatives and his boss and his acquaintances, but by page 50 none of these characters had done much of anything to warrant all this ink.

I have been more willing lately to abandon books unfinished if they're not holding my interest, but I decided to give this one a bit more of a chance for the sake of the setting. Also, it's very well written on the sentence-by-sentence level, so I know this writer has some chops, and I'm hoping that persistence will pay off in the end. There are times I will stick with a difficult book to challenge myself, and I'm willing to challenge myself a little longer here.

Fortunately, things picked up a bit between pages 50 and 60, so we'll see how it goes from here. I'm not yet committed to finishing, but I'll see how the next 20-30 pages go. Also I am using this experience to remind myself that as a writer, I must never let a story go on anywhere near this long without some change, some progress in the conflict.

4 comments:

  1. Ah, I ran into one of those recently. It was by an author I have always enjoyed in the past. But I must have bought the book in a hurry (on the name alone) without reading or flipping through at all. It's about a loner who thinks in solitude. There is no dialogue for the first 30 or more pages, and the author lost me before that.

    I think a less well-known author wouldn't get away with that and that the book wouldn't be published.

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    1. That's a premise that could work if the loner is thinking about very interesting things, if there is some conflict inherent in his/her mind. But it would be tricky to pull off, not to let it slide into navel-gazing.

      I'm actually rereading a memoir right now that I love, in which the narrator goes off alone for a period of time. But there is still plenty of conflict in her solitude: her fears about being alone, flashbacks to a troubled marriage and doubts about where it is headed, and her exploration of the world around her. She invites the reader in.

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  2. I think we have a tendency to fall in love with our words and forget the story we're writing. Good reminder, Jenn.

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    1. We can't fall so in love with painting the background that we forget to put in any of the foreground action. ;-)

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