Good intentions, bad writing

All fiction contains a seed of truth and sometimes that truth can inspire deep thought in the reader. That is good. Sometimes authors write fiction with the specific intention of bringing out a truth and making readers think. That can work as well, but only if the fictional part of the story is allowed to dictate when, where and how the truth emerges. And then there are times when an author is so fixated on the truth that he/she uses the story as nothing more than a limp carrot.

I recently bought a book that falls into the ‘limp carrot’ category. It was well written in terms of basic requirements such as spelling, punctuation, grammar, structure etc but it missed the mark completely in terms of story.

The author of this unnamed book clearly knew the theory – tell a great truth through the eyes of a fictional character – but he/she obviously cared more for the truth than the character. [To avoid tying myself into knots here I am going to call this character John.] Because the author did not really care about John, the inevitable result was that I did not care about John either and because I did not care I could not empathize. I read the words of pain and suffering but they struck no chord; I could have been reading a shopping list for all the impact they made.

And here is where the truly sad part comes in. Despite being highly sympathetic to the ‘truth’ the author was trying to reveal, my complete lack of empathy with John diminished my sympathy for the ‘truth’ as well. And that made me feel terrible, so terrible in fact that I simply could not get past chapter 2.  I did try, a number of times because I hate leaving anything unfinished, but I simply could not do it. And that has made me angry enough to write this scathing non-review.

Please people! If you write fiction then please, please, please understand that the story and the characters must come first otherwise you give your readers no reason to CARE. And if we cannot care then your truths will wither and die.

<<end rant>>

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

8 responses to “Good intentions, bad writing

  • acflory

    lol – and don’t forget Facebook!

    I really like the sound of that take on the old story 😀


  • acflory

    Will do 🙂

    A comic tale inspired by Dracula? Now this I want to see. Please let me know as soon as it’s launched!


    • candy

      Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in diary entries, letters and newspaper clippings. Imagine a vampire hunting story set in New York now with diary entries, voicemail messages, emails, post-it notes, etc.

      I will keep you posted on the launch!


  • Candy

    A lot of things get in the way of the story. Sometimes the writer “falls in love” with a particular tangent or can’t bring herself to “waste” all that interesting research on a time, place, artist, idea, etc.

    I’ve been guilty of both of those and I’ve paid the price. The price is revising and editing. No one hits it on the first draft and for the final draft the only priority is the story.

    (sigh) I’m slicing all sorts of good, but story-diverting, text off of my next ebook right now.

    Lessons learned the hard way.


    • acflory

      -nods and sighs- I’m doing that as well and it is hard but you’re absolutely right in saying the ‘only priority is the story’. We may create them but like kids, they don’t belong to us so we have to make sure we make them strong enough to stand on their own two feet.

      If the Mary Shelley Game is anything to go by though you are already damn good at ‘child rearing’ 😀 Hurry up and get that next one out!


  • acflory

    Couldn’t agree more. I think this author wanted to write a persuasive piece of fiction but…the facts got in the way. Or there were too many of them. Or they were too overwhelming… -sigh-


  • Stephanie Allen Crist

    So true. A novel without a story–or without the story being the focus of the novel–isn’t really a novel. Theme is great. It’s great to have a point. But you need a story to make your point or you should be writing a different genre.


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