Friday, April 3, 2009

Author moments you love to hate

I've been trolling around forums to check out what really tick people off when they read Fantasy books. It is interesting to read what people have to say because we all have such a variety of tastes and this is true for likes and dislikes. I have compiled a list of "love to hate" things about authors and state why people hate them and why it doesn't bother some people. 

I will list a general comment of what people have been saying and then make my own comment. There is no order of "hate" but perhaps I will state it if thing on the list is something a lot of people agree on. 

Unpronounceable Names (Jeqonadin, Brisingr)
This one is probably divided down the middle, it really bothers some people or it really doesn't. I've found that the people who don't mind it are people who have read a lot of books and/or have read for a very long time. Others just pronounce it the best they can and just ran with it

This one actually bothers me a bit, I just seem to stumble every time I come upon an unfamiliar or hard to pronounce name. It is like a word I don't know the meaning of and I have to go look it up in the dictionary except there often is no dictionary. 

All Books are the same Story (Gemmell, Eddings)
This doesn't bother people that much, most people just stop reading these authors and problem solved. Other people don't mind the same story as long as it is compelling. 
SleepingWithBooks: I don't mind it too much but I have only read one author like that and that is Gemmell. But can't we draw similarities to the band AC/DC? Essentially they haven't brought out a 'new' album, just old ones that have been rehashed but people still kept buying them.

Everyday boring names (Joe, Bob, Greg)
Only a minority of people find this annoying.

SleepingWithBooks: Sometimes just unavoidable, especially when it is modern day fantasy or when someone from present day gets sucked into the past etc. Personally I haven't encounter this problem.

Cliche Fantasy (Boy is normal,becomes chosen one,gets magical item/learns mystical powers,beats everyone,wins the prize)
Another one that has divided opinion. Old school readers don't mind it or even love it because that was what they grew up on, while others are sick of it and want up to date fantasy, compelling with complex
 storylines. There are others that don't mind it as long as it is properly executed.

I am with the group that doesn't like it. I don't think there is much excuse to write this type of dribble anymore. There is such a plethora of excellent writers with great minds. It you want my money, make me excited.

Get out of Jail Free endings (magic item blows up the world, it was just a dream, time machine, solving 10 books worth of problems in 2 chapters)

Probably the most "love to hate" out of the entire list. Explanation are and notwithstanding: author hasn't explained well enough or with enough pages, readers feel cheated

SleepingWithBooks: Yeah, I hate it. All that time invested for the plot to be solved in an instantaneous moment. Also known as 'deus ex machina'.

Books are way too long. (ASOIAF, Malazan, Wheel of Time etc)
Not really something people get fussy about. People are annoyed when their are too many filler chapters that don't add much to the overall story of the book but a length of a book doesn't bother people. The length of a series perhaps is where some people get annoyed with is probably best explained below.

SleepingWithBooks: The only time I get annoyed with the length of a book is when it isn't a good book. I tell myself "Man this author really has a talent for writing rubbish."

Waiting for author to finish the series (Jordan, Martin, Kerr)
Not something that people get too annoyed with because their is always a constant stream of great books coming out. The only time when people get annoyed (or even angry) is when there are constant delays and set backs in the series (Martin). However it must be said that these people are frustrated and actually really love the series and don't know how to vent their anger/disappointment. The other reason why people get angry is when the author dies before the series is finished (Jordan, and to no fault of his own), people feel sad and robbed. 

SleepingWithBooks: The only person I am reading at the moment that has taken an age to bring out the next book is Martin. I can understand that the man has created perhaps a world that is too complex even for him. He has stopped predicting when the book will be finished and I think this is a smart move by the man. To solve this problem, wait until series is finish before reading!

Author kills off the best characters (Martin) or never kills off anyone (Jordan, Abercrombie)
A lot of people don't mind main characters dying because it add flavour and character to the book itself. However, a lot of people hate it when the "Best" character dies because it makes them too depressed, have a bias to the rest of the book being crap without them, makes them close the book! On the other side of the spectrum is when the author doesn't kill anyone at all, perhaps in fear of not having enough material or not wanting to displease the readers. Perhaps the most noted author to do this is Jordan.

SleepingWithBooks: Martin shocked me when he killed off one of my favourite characters but I didn't dislike the move. However there have been other books I have read where the main character did die and I was forever comparing the next main character with the old dead one. I am also in the boat of where I hate when the author doesn't kill off  anyone of significance...just do it!

Cliffhanger endings to books that are the first of many.
People know that there are going to be sequels and want to have the book end on a satisfactory ending. If they are caught up in the story they don't want to wait 1-3 years for an ending. 

SleepingWithBooks: Perhaps unavoidable because it is a sequel. I have to say that if people like your book they will read on regardless of a cliffhanger ending. So perhaps stop annoying your fanbase?

Perfect Flawless Characters (Superman)
Readers hate characters that can do anything, solve everything and are the most amazing creature on earth e.g. silky smooth cream coloured skin with luscious black hair and eyes so deep blue you can fall into them. It doesn't make good reading to them and makes things predictable and droll. How can we as readers relate to these perfect characters when we ourselves our flawed beyond belief?

It is a bit of a paradox, flawless characters are flawed. We have people who hate these perfect characters yet we keep buying or watch or read about them. Superman is the most well known superhero in the world and who didn't like McGyver? However, I also don't like these characters. I want my characters to be flawed (in a good way), they need to be cruel, self-loathing, makes the wrong decisions (all in moderation!) and they need to lose. However I am also finding that a lot of books these days have ugly or fat or unfit characters as main characters (Perdido Street Station, Ferve Dream, The Exodus Gate)

Authors That Refuse To Leave Their World (Fiest, Matrix Sequels)
Talented authors ending up wasting their talent in a particular world because of commercial success. Often the latter books suffer because ideas become stale and is like a boxer than has had one fight too many. We all can understand they got to eat and make money faster than they can spend it can't we?

This reminds me of a giant that doesn't realise he is bigger than everyone and remains timid and meek. Some authors fear if they left their own world they would fail (Gemmell once wrote under the pseudonym Ross Harding, 'Black Knight, White Swan' (1993) was a Crime Thriller and was his first book not to become a best seller). We all fear failure, so is it their fault?

Everything is a trilogy (Parker, Abercrombie)
Perhaps this stems from people sick of waiting for trilogies or perhaps people want filler books (books to read between trilogies).

SleepingWithBooks: From an authors perspective it is much easier to develop your characters and story because you have more space. Trilogies have also been a craze since LOTR got major attention with the movies, but I think publishers like the idea of trilogies because they sell more books. From a readers perspective I want to be able to read a one off book and when I want one of these I am often delving into the older authors to find that. It would be really nice if there were more options when it came to one off books.

I have gone through a lot of things that may or maybe not tick you off, but I am sure there are many more, and if you do have one that is not on the list, feel free to comment on it or comment on the ones already existing.


elisesophie said...

Very good list, enjoyed reading it, and could relate to some of the things on the list!

Enchante said...

No probs, I enjoyed writing it.

Thanks for the visit!

I.J. Parnham said...

I enjoyed your summary. I was surprised more people didn't get irritated by maps: in them not being there when the story moves around a lot, or being there and being so badly drawn they are no use at all, or featuring a geography that is just plain silly, or my pet hate in featuring a damnably intriguing 'crag of eternal doom' or some such stuffed way out in the top right hand corner that has been stuffed there for no good reason other than to get a visit in volume 8.

My other pet peeve which in fantasy I think is worth a whole section is magic. Magic rules that are made up as they go along, magic that for 999 pages can't do much but which suddenly on the last page can split the world in two, hard to imagine magic, books featuring whole armies battling when you can just a wizard to wave a wand and end it all, and even fantasy without magic (although you know it'll arrive later on).

Enchante said...

Yeah, I think there was only your complaint about maps. Otherwise it didn't even get a mention.

I do agree sometimes that there needs to be a map. Sometimes there is a map but something is left out (sometimes on purpose to make it more mysterious).

Some authors i.e. Joe Abercrombie don't have a map because they are not focused on world building but more on character building. Perhaps the author feels by adding a map it takes something away from the characters. The funny thing is, the only complaint people have of Abercrombie is that he doesn't focus on world building very much (not that he doesn't have a map).

I think the magic that can't do much but suddenly splits the world in two fits into the "Get out of jail free ending"

Thanks for your in depth reply!

I.J. Parnham said...

I agree that magic can be a deux ex machina, but Bad Magic in Fantasy feels like it could be a subject all on its own, as magic tends to be a prime requirement of fantasy and there's so many things that can go wrong and spoil a story if it's not used well.

Enchante said...

I don't know if I have read badly written magic per se. I think perhaps it is more that the author had written his story poorly. There are times when authors have ruined the magic by giving away too much information (i'm thinking about "the force" here), but I don't think there is bad magic.

As for magic being an intricate part of a fantasy book? Well that is a whole other subject. rain check? =)

-David Powers King said...

Nice list, dude!

And YES! I can't stand names that I can't pronounce either. Seriously.

I admit that I have one story that's the "cliche fantasy", or you think it starts/finishes that way, but I plan to shake things up a bit.

Keep it up. I like your posts!

Enchante said...

Thanks for the appreciation! I will try and post some inventive posts like this one when they come to me =)

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