Post #110

Why do authors ruin books?

6th January 2004, late morning | Comments (12)

So, I’m reading a book, a novel, and it’s a murder mystery. The characters are well written, the evil guy is very evil, and I’m rather enjoying it. It is designated my official Book To Read On The Loo for the time being.

But then, about halfway in, there are a few paragraphs that seem to exist for no reason other than to say Um, hello? Hello, you there, yes you, on the loo, reading this book, can you see me? Ah good, so, I just wanted to point out, that this scene is by way of being a flashing light and blaring horn to alert you to the fact that the nice chap is not a nice chap at all, but in fact a stone-cold killer with deep-rooted mental problems and… well blow me, it rather looks like he’s our killer. Now there’s a turn up for the books, eh? So, that’s the plot ruined for you, I’ll, er, I’ll be off now, things to do and so on. Cheerio!

So I sit there, extractor fan whirring away, and I wonder what to do. Do I give up now; do I read the remaining 200 pages thinking “Well this is a waste of time, I know what’s going to happen”; or do I carry on in the hope that I’ve been duped by a clever red herring? (Or do I do what I used to do when I was a kid and check the last page to see what happens?)

A bit of wall staring and head scratching and I made the decision to push on and finish the thing. Two hundred pages (and a seriously numb bottom) later, my fears were realised as the oh-it’s-obviously-him killer was unmasked to gasps of surprise (from the other characters in the book) and groans of annoyance (from me).

Very odd behaviour from an otherwise excellent author.

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Comments (12)

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  1. Rene:

    I wonder if it's not so much the author as the editors/publisher. I suspect that the book industry is a lot like the music industry and that the artists feel lots of pressure from the higher-ups to conform to a certain standard just to sell. I can see the editor now with his read pen poring through the manuscript adding helpful hints like "You should put a clue here!"

    Posted 2 hours, 29 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  2. Dunstan:

    Rene: "I can see the editor now with his read pen poring through the manuscript adding helpful hints like 'You should put a clue here!'"

    That's a very Dilberty scene :op

    I was going to say that you'd think editors would pick up on flaws like this, but maybe you're right, maybe they make the problem worse.

    Posted 2 hours, 42 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Rene
  3. Kevin Francis:

    Some of the books I've read had *wonderful* introductions, excellent characters, and then ... unfortunately ruined it all with non-existant plots, or even worse - plots that are corny.

    Posted 2 hours, 53 minutes after the fact
  4. Nicole:

    I like to ruin mystery books (or movies) for myself by overanalyzing. I usually think, "Oh this guy is strangely charming and nice and is positively ripe for being the bad guy." And, sure enough, I've just ruined it for myself.

    Posted 4 hours, 22 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Kitta, ↓ David House, ↓ Dunstan
  5. Kitta:

    I do the same thing, I can never just sit there and enjoy the movie or book. Oh no, I have to overanalyse.

    I feel good knowing that there are others out there like me. :)

    Posted 5 hours, 42 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Nicole
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  6. David House:

    Yeah, same here, but I take it waaay too far and go completely overestimate everything, and end up with a completely wrong idea. Basically.

    Posted 5 hours, 49 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Nicole
  7. Dunstan:

    That's the problem with well known genres I guess, the patterns are too well established so the 'suprise' isn't really a suprise any more. You just have to hope that the whole thing is sufficiently well portrayed to gloss over the fact that the outcome is obvious.

    Most of the time I turn my brain off during films or books and let the scenes unfold, otherwise I know I'll think it through and maybe come up with the answer and ruin the experience. This time though, I couldn't ignore the signs.

    My mum is a great one for:

    "Oh, he'll be his brother of course and he'll be hiding behind that door and he'll murder him using that golf club they've all been looking for that the Grandfather lost in 1962 and then that man there, him, he'll say 'Well I never' just he has throughout the whole film and then you'll laugh and your dad will..."
    "What? It's obvious!"
    "I know but Good God woman, just don't say it out loud! Now it's stuck at the front of our brains and there's zero mystery left!"

    Over-analysing a film yourself is one thing, having someone do it for you can be very frustrating :oD

    Posted 6 hours, 40 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Nicole, ↑ Kitta
    Inspired: ↓ Lee
  8. Lee:

    I'm a big film nerd (and a fairly sizeable bookworm too, my life is boring, who cares?), I've seen more movies than I dare remember, I've got a degree in film, and what you have to bare in mind is that there are actually very few storylines to use, something like 8 when you strip them all back (and there's an absurdly small number of music beats too). So what you're watching isn't original, nothing is. Plus you're compounded by the fact that most filmmakers are trying to make money so stick to tried and tested 'formulas' (as do most novelists), genre is but one example of this.

    Unfortunately, and I'm not sure why, maybe being able to watch it frame-by-frame on video/DVD or what, but everyone seems to have decided the best way to get around this flaw is a) plenty of BIG special effects and B) moving at so fast a pace as to make most people dizzy, let alone sit and analyse what's happening on screen, instead of actually writing good material.

    Galls me (as you might have guessed).

    Posted 8 hours, 18 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan
    Inspired: ↓ Mearso
  9. Mearso:

    I agree that when you break down a movie or book, there aren't that many different plots. So what you are left with is the panache that the artists have created the work with.

    For example, I really enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean; which was a pretty simple story done with great gusto and a witty script. I hated The Matrix Reloaded; sucj more basic storytelling that I didn't care about the plot.

    This touches on one of my new year promises to myself which is to go back and read very basic stories - things like greek or norse creation stories.

    Posted 1 day, 5 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Lee
  10. Owen:

    I never really got any entertainment out of reading books. I guess programming has made me lazy.

    Posted 1 day, 9 hours after the fact
  11. Baasch:

    I think reading is kinda like watching an old movie (50s-60s). It's hard to do. You have to concentrate on it; it takes more effort, but it's totally worth it in the end. I grew up on Sesame Street, then MTV: quick cuts, very entertaining. So to take the time to sit down and read a book is hard, but I love to do it if I can get my mind into it enough to concentrate. But yeah, there's nothing worse than an author or editor ruining it for you in the middle of what was a pretty good book.

    Posted 2 days, 7 hours after the fact
  12. Pixelmech:

    "It is designated my official Book To Read On The Loo for the time being" LOL! Nothing like a good read on the loo, pot, throne, etc.

    And "Two hundred pages (and a seriously numb bottom) later..." Yer cracking me up, D. Remember, geek humor is the best humor...

    Posted 2 days, 10 hours after the fact

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