Good Writing, Romance, and Abuse
I mentioned in my previous post that I think more authors should really try to perfect their craft. This is not to say I’m a super fancy writer, obviously I’m not or I’d be published rather than writing a blog post that few will actually read. But I figure, since I picked at mainstream lit, I should explain my thinking. And it should be noted, I’m referring to YA here. Adult novels, intrinsically not focusing on coming-of-age tales, do not fall into the same problems, though they do have their own. And, obviously, all of this is my personal opinion. I am no expert, and as my wonderful friend Kim recently said to me, art has a bias and no one is ever stating fact.
I do read the sort of books I was poking in my previous post. People say “OMG this book was amaaaaaaazing you have to read it do it you must you know you want to it was absolutely wonderful please for me to make me happy and feel like I shared something worth sharing read it omg now.” (Painful run on sentence. I’m so sorry you had to read that.)
Also, sometimes the synopsis sounds like it could be a brilliant book. A book just waiting to make the favorites list. And then they don’t. And then I give them 2 stars and people tell me I’m too picky, too critical, too snobby, too… whatever they think is bad to make me feel stupid for disliking something I didn’t think was up to par. And the funny thing is… no one asks the important questions.
A lot of these books had a good idea, they just fell through in execution. A lot of these books also focus heavily on the romantic aspect and you don’t need TRUE LOVE to sell a book to me. I actually get along just fine without a heavy romantic element. Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough did a wonderful job of capturing my attention and holding it without romance. On the other hand, you can include romance without smothering me with it, making it the focal point to an unhealthy degree, and/or failing to keep it real within the context of the story. Divergent by Veronica Roth is by far the best I’ve seen that keeps the romance in perspective, builds up to it in a logical manner, and never overwhelms me with need, which is not what love or romance is all about.
There are books I wanted to like, but the writing was never up to the challenge the story presented. Flat characters are flat. Obvious, I know. But I don’t want to read two dimensional characters. I want them to jump out of the page and feel real to me. If an author can’t do that, I can’t be their target audience. Complex plot lines are wonderful. Convoluted ones are not. If you tried to do so much in your story that I need a manual to navigate through your knotted up sub-plots and around your gaping holes, I can’t be your target audience.
I am critical. If your story is set in a mental hospital and you mention a patient hearing clinking silverware, I will put the story down. Because the only way that’s real is if the patient is hallucinating. And if she is, you might want to tell me before she hears the impossible and I tune out. If your werewolves, with their increased sense of smell, can’t sniff out a person is actually another werewolf, I will check out of your story. Because that is illogical. If your Hero deadpan tells your Heroine that he wants to kill her, stalks her, blatantly tries to restrict her freedom as a person, and/or treats her as lesser because of who she is but tries to say he loves her anyway… at any point in the story and she does not get scared, fear for her life, call the police, run away, or at least acknowledge that this is not correct, I will probably chuck the book across the room because abuse is not sexy and I will not tolerate the romanticizing of it. I am happily critical about inconsistencies, fallacies, plot holes, and downright romanticizing things that have no right to be.
And let’s talk a moment about abuse and literature, shall we? If you’ve got a BDSM book (which would likely not be YA, but humor me anyway), and a fantasy the couple is acting out is a serial killer who wants to kill the girl but wants to have sex with her more, so they spare her, for now… dun dun dun! That’s fine. Because the characters acknowledge it’s fantasy and are consenting, and theoretically sane. But a love interest is not sexy because they could hurt you, yet choose not to. They’re sexy because they doesn’t want to hurt you. If your love interest wants to kill you, if they stalk you, if they restrict your freedom as a person, if they treat you like they are superior to you… they are abusive. And that’s not cute or sexy. That’s not loving possessiveness, that’s not loving anything. Abuse is abuse. And it’s not something to romanticize, because it truly could hurt you.
I have a high standard for what I consider good writing. And I think plenty of authors have the potential to reach that level. But I honestly do think a lot of them settle for mediocracy. My saying that is actually a compliment. I’m saying they could do better and they choose not to, as opposed to saying they are incapable of doing better. The goal is not quantity, but quality. I understand writers want to make a living off of their words, but perhaps it’s the love of words that should take the foreground.