Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Unwelcome Twists

I've been freakishly productive this week, getting through everything on my to-do list, accomplishing house cleaning and even being fairly creative. Monday I cleaned my kitchen pretty thoroughly, and in spite of cooking dinner both Monday night and last night, it's still clean. Yesterday, I cleaned out my bathroom/closet area. My bathroom is kind of like a dressing room, where it's a fairly large room (for a bathroom) that has the usual bathroom stuff plus closets and open space in front of the closets, with mirrored doors on the closets that work kind of like fitting room mirrors. I put a chair in that area that was originally intended to be for sitting down while putting on shoes, but it turned into The Chair of Doom, where clothes I took out then changed my mind about, clothes I wore so briefly that I don't need to put them in the clothes hamper and sometimes even clothes I just need to fold and put away after doing laundry go to die. It was spilling over to the floor, and I made the room a lot neater by either putting away or washing everything that was on the chair. I also cleaned out the floor of one side of the closet, and I emptied the secondary Chair of Doom in my bedroom. Today's task is a little more daunting. I plan to clean my desk and the area around my desk.

While doing all this mindless work, the creative part of my brain kicked into high gear, and all those Inconvenient Midpoint Ideas were bobbing to the surface. I realized that some of the research for two of them overlaps, in spite of them actually being very different kinds of stories, so I can research two potential stories at once.

Speaking of midpoints, when I was talking last week about being leery of buying books at today's prices because so many have disappointed me, it wasn't something that the preview feature for e-books would help with. What I've found happening a lot lately is that the book makes a sharp turn about midway through and becomes something entirely different that isn't anything like what was mentioned in the cover copy or set up in the opening chapters. I can sometimes deal with a sharp turn into a darker story when the characters remain true to themselves, so that I can still like the characters I liked in the beginning, even if they're going through much more difficult stuff. But what I've seen a lot of lately is the characters themselves changing midway through a book, in addition to the story changing, and in a way that bothers me. I'll be going along, enjoying this fun adventure with characters I like, and then suddenly one of the main characters turns into a demon (it's so often a demon) and starts killing the other characters, and I'm saying, "But wait! I thought he was the hero! Okay, so he is killing the bad guys, but he's also killing the good guys -- including that girl I thought was perfect for him -- and bringing the world to the brink of destruction. I did not sign up for this!" I'm not a big fan of demon stories, but most of them are good enough to put it in the title or in the cover copy, since demons are apparently big now and a lot of people like them. But these are in books where there's no hint of demons previously. It doesn't have to be demons, though. It's just anything where the characters seem to abruptly change and start doing things that make it impossible for me to care about them.

Sometimes it strikes me as the author having an Inconvenient Midpoint Idea and just incorporating it into the book he's writing, since he's totally stuck at the middle and isn't sure what to do. It's like, "Hey, I know! The hero turns into a demon and kills everyone!" And then the editor's response, instead of being, "Um, did you maybe get your manuscript pages mixed up? Because the second half of this book doesn't seem to fit the first half. And we've already designed and printed the covers," is more like, "Wow! It's so unexpected! I love it!" I suppose it is unexpected if the hero turns into the villain and attacks the heroine midway through the book instead of falling in love with her and teaming up to defeat the bad guys, but to me it's not a very satisfying read. I get nervous now whenever I reach the middle of a book, and I'll skip ahead and read a random page to make sure the main characters are still more or less the same people they were and that the word "demon" doesn't come up too often. I was reading a book yesterday that made me really nervous as I neared the middle because I could see the possibility of things going wonky, but it ended up working out okay -- enough that I may actually buy a copy after getting it from the library (it's from a publisher whose books tend to do that sharp veer into "Huh?" so I was leery of buying it and didn't read it until the library finally got a copy). I'm not sure how to avoid this kind of trap since the usual book-buying tricks don't seem to work. About the only thing that might flag this is the reader reviews on Amazon, but I so often tend to disagree with them, and it seems like the reviewers think the twist I hate is brilliant writing.

Maybe I just have bad taste.

I let myself spend most of the past couple of days reading mostly for fun, but today will be more of a work day, with desk cleaning and research reading.

1 comment:

Chicory said...

I lurk more than post, but I just had to comment this time, becaues I've run into similar issues with modern fantasy. Not so much people turning into deamons as that authors seeming to take Donald Maas's suggestion of making your character do the one thing they never would to mean `become evil and kill their closest pal.'

I was really worried that Jim Butcher was headed in that direction. Fortunately, he gave Harry Dresden a good smack in the conscence in his last book. :)