Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Drawback of Being a Writer

I got into a tiny argument (friendly, of course) with my husband last night about a book he'd recommended. I'd started to read it a few days earlier and found that the author had hooked me. In fact, I planned on having a nice, relaxing evening on the couch, book in hand.

That all changed when the author effectively snapped me out of the world he'd built.

I think I read the "offending" chapter with a mixture of disbelief and cynicism. How, I thought, could this big name author take what I perceived to be the easy way out of the situation in which he'd put his characters? When I told this to my husband, he was baffled.

"This is a great book!" he said.

"It was a great book," I replied. "Until I read that part."

He said I was being too picky, that I needed to keep reading because it would be worth it. But for me, well, the magic was lost.

"I'm a writer," I said. "I notice these things."

And therein lies the drawback of being a writer. It's hard to watch movies or read books without dissecting the plot, watching the character arcs, or looking for symbolism and metaphors. Years ago, I might have read the aforementioned book and kept on reading. But not now. Not after I've studied the craft of writing and become a bit of an expert on pinpointing what goes wrong in a novel. (Now if I could only pinpoint the same problems in my OWN work!)

To an extent, this takes some of the enjoyment out of reading and watching television or movies. I'm constantly looking for things.

But when an author has done his or her job right, really done it right, I don't even notice craft. Instead, I'm completely sucked into the world he/she has created and I'm too wrapped up in the characters to care about how the author crafted them to be in whatever situation they're in.

That is what we need to strive for. And I'm not going to kid myself - I'm not there yet. I know it's going to take a lot of hard work to get to that point. Lots of failed drafts, failed plots, failed character arcs. But that's how we learn.

Here's my goal - to never break the bond I have with my reader. It's a challenging goal, but one well worth pursuing.


  1. Great goal. And I do the same thing. After I was going on about how a movie would have been better if they had developed the character's motivation better my Dad asked me, "Can't you just watch a movie like a normal person any more?" I said, "No Dad. I'm a writer. We're not normal." He got a chuckle out of that.

  2. I'm so with you. I started the latest novel in a YA series that I used to enjoy. Couldn't get into it. I felt like I was head-hopping all over the place. Maybe it was me, but I was pulled right out of the scene almost from the start.

    Great goal!

  3. Hey there, since the new job started, I've been MIA on blogging, but now I'm trying to get back into it. I caught up on your goings-on and previous posts, Melissa. Always interesting, insightful, and fun to read. I'm also getting back into the writing, plotting out a new book! Well, YOU told me to start something new, so now I'm doing it. :) Hugs to you.

  4. SO TRUE. I have a hard time finding anything good to read anymore...one of the biggest compliments I can give nowadays is that I actually made it from beginning to end.

  5. I agree with this! Happens to me alot - but not so easy to spot in my own writing. Good goal. I want that too! So ... what book was it?

  6. I agree with this! Happens to me alot - but not so easy to spot in my own writing. Good goal. I want that too! So ... what book was it?

  7. Indeed you have set a fabulous goal.

    I've taught my DH to be very critical, as well. We've watched more than one movie and he's told me that the characters are underdeveloped or the plot is weak or someone's motivations aren't properly shown. It's a tough life!


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