Like most writers, I'm a big reader. Loved to read as far back as I can remember (and at my age, that's pretty far). But I never spent a lot of time analyzing how I felt about a book unless it really moved me in some way. Most of the time, my reaction was I liked it or I didn't like it and that was all. Now that I'm seriously trying to get published, I pay a lot more attention when I read. What worked in the story, what didn't, and why.
A couple weeks ago I attended a book signing. I wasn't familiar with the author but the ads and all her bookcovers proclaimed she was a "National Bestseller". The books were listed as "Suspense". I bought two. While I was there I also picked up the most recent book from an author whose blog I had started following. She wasn't a bestseller but the book was number six in a series, so she had to be reasonably successful.
I started with one of the two from the bestseller. It opened with a great action scene and pulled me right in. The male and female lead characters (one was a cop) had the usual mild animosity and mistrust that I expected would be overcome later in the story. The plot started to develop, clues and foreshadowing nicely layered in, then all of a sudden they were in bed. No build up of sexual tension, almost no internal struggle with the attraction between them, just - bam - they went from dislike/mistrust to wild sex and I can't live with out you. The abruptness of it destroyed the connection I was developing with the charactors which, in turn, pretty much spoiled the rest of the book for me.
So I moved on to the second book. Maybe that just wasn't one of her better efforts. The second book also started out strong. A little stronger animosity and mistrust between the leads this time (again, one was a cop), good opening action, good hook. I was really getting into it. Then - bam - in the middle of a significant plot development the lead characters jump each other in a parking lot and head back to his place. No build up, no tension, no internal struggle to speak of.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of romance. I'm a little disappointed if a story doesn't have some romantic element. And I'm certainly not against sex. Nothing better than a good steamy love scene. But it has to fit the characters and the plot. These felt more like - "Oops, page 33, time for sex."
I moved on to the third book (the other author). A little softer tone, slower pace. Nice character development. But the story was incredibly weak. The main plot line was an abduction. For much of the story the police wandered around searching for suspicious vehicles and canvassing the neighborhood. There was no interesting detective work, no putting together clues and developing leads. I know police work is sometimes like that but it doesn't make for very interesting reading. Finally the author cut to the POV of the abductee. She wakes up in a dark room, realizes what's happened, frees herself from her bonds in a way that was too simplistic to be believed, and when her captor returns, knocks him over and runs to a conveniently located gas station to call 911.
Oh, come on.
So, what's wrong? I read three books and picked out what I thought worked and didn't work in each of them. That's good, right? That will help me be a better writer, help me not to make the same mistakes. Except... Author One is a national bestseller and Author Two has a successful series. So maybe my judgement about what works and what doesn't stinks.
I'm currently polishing a my WIP and getting close to query stage. I think it looks pretty good. But now...[see title]
What do you do at times like this?
Groaner of the Day: (long post, short pun) I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. It's impossible to put down.