aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,
aprilhenry
aprilhenry

What made me stop reading

As a freelance book reviewer for the Oregonian, I get a LOT of books. It's like some cautionary fairytale about being careful what you wish for. When I was a kid, I would have said getting lots of free books would have been like Christmas every day.

Here's a couple of things that have made me stop reading recently:

- One book was about a guy whose wife disappears. They have been happily married for five years and have a young son. I never really got a feeling for why they were happily married. She worked at a job she disliked with a woman she despised. And she had no friends. None. How does a person have no friends? Who would want to be married to her? I think the author wanted to take the easy way out. No friends meant very few people to interview once she disappeared. But the no friends coupled with the fact that you had no idea why he liked her, let alone loved her, made the whole book (which seemed to hinge on the idea that the wife was an ex-con in hiding) seem fake.

- Screenplay writers who turn their hands to novels seem to be prone to this problem: head hopping. Mid-way through a scene being told from the prisoner's point of view, we're suddenly in the jailer's. Or we jump from wife to husband. I'm sure the temptation is great to add one bit of exposition that can only come from the new person's pov. But it yanks the reader out of the story and forces them to backtrack as they try to figure out whose head they are in.

Maybe it happens because screenplays have more of an omniscient pov?

Here's an example (changed a bit) from another book:
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"He realized that any utterance like "Be careful" would be met with a "Duh." He had nothing more to say." [husband's pov about his kid]

"He backed up, waved a goodbye, and she waved back. [husband's pov] He turned and took his tall frame though the doorway. [who's pov? "tall frame" is not how he's going to think of himself.] Sara was working through a checklist in the dining room. Since deciding not to challenge Craig about the phone call, she had been preparing herself for a frosty goodbye from him... [now we're in wife's pov].
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I would like to see a chapter change or at least a space break to tell me whose head we are in. Sara and Craig presumably have different ways of looking at the world, and where passages are not directly attributed, I want to know whose eyes I'm looking through. And IMHO, jumping from head to head lessens the impact of any one character.

These are my thoughts. What are yours?



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