Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Pants Keep Falling Down

I'm down to 199!  I'm officially back under the 200 pounds mark.  When I exercise, I always forget how full of energy I become, and how I sleep less and want to watch less television.  Every part of my life becomes better when I'm eating healthy and exercising.  Sadly, I never remember why I fall off the wagon. But I'm well on my way.

I read part of one book and all of another this past weekend.  I'm counting Monday as the weekend since I took the day off and did nothing but relax.  One book was absolutely amazing and the other was terrible.  One book had beautiful writing, one had serviceable writing.  One kept me flipping the pages to see what happened next while the other kept my flipping the pages to see how much longer I had.

Funny enough, the amazing book was the one with the serviceable writing.  Now, when I say serviceable, I don't mean bad.  I simply mean that there was nothing that really stood out about the writing--AND THAT'S A GOOD THING.  Sometimes we writers get so in love with the lines we write that we forget that every line must serve the story.  There were definitely some pretty phrasings but nothing that made me stop and think about it.  What this book did have was verve.  The characters and setting yanked me in, while the pace kept me moving along.

The book with the beautiful writing was the one I couldn't finish.  Here's why, and here's a pitfall that I myself have fallen into:  first person does not give someone a license to say everything on the narrator's mind.  Personally, I love first person.  I love the present tense.  There's an immediacy and an intimacy that 3rd person sometimes lacks.  While that can often be a good thing in sweeping epics (Harry Potter anyone?) in smaller stories, I think FP is king.  But done badly, it can be immensely tedious.  In the book I was reading, the narrator was talking about how he came to be in the class with a particular person.  His explanation lasted through about twenty-five pages, and sadly, offered nothing to the story.  Every event had a backstory that took too many pages to tell.  Not only did all that yapping not show me anything about the character (except that he enjoyed talking) but it dragged the story to a halt.  I was only about a quarter of the way in and I felt like I was blindly stumbling through a garden maze and just wanted out.

So there are two things I took from this:  One, pretty writing doesn't necessarily mean good.  Two, first person narration does not give people a license to kill readers with boredom.

Coming up this week:  BLOG CHAIN!!!!  Also, Saturday I'll be drawing the winner for the kitty puke ARC contest.  And there might be other stuff too.  Probably.  Lost is a rerun this week so I might have extra time.


  1. Congrats on getting below 200. That is awesome.

    I completely understand what you're saying about the writing in both books. Pretty or awe-inspiring writing is not an excuse for stagnation within the story. Nice post.

  2. Keep up the good work. (And don't forget to tighten the drawstring on your shorts when you're running.)


  3. Congrats on the weight loss. It's the hardest thing a person goes through in this life, but worth every lost pound.

  4. It's all a matter of taste though. Some people find "page turning" tiresome. They like picaresque and beautiful sentences.

    I think a novel that is going to bog me down with fancy writing better be filled with surprising and interesting detail, otherwise I'm gonna get bored. A lot of Spanish writers are good at this. Those sentences that go on kaleidoscopically. I'm reading Updike right now and I swear I never met an author more eager to halt the action to tell us about a bathroom or the view from the car...

    I'm curious what books you read. Congrats on the weight loss.

  5. Eric - Thanks!

    Kat - I may just throw out the old running shorts completely :)

    Michelle - Too true. For the first 25 years of my life, I was always painfully UNDER weight. This being overweight thing is new to me and I'm still trying to figure out how to deal with it properly.

    Joseph - Totally true. THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY was one of those slow book, but I loved it. But with that book, Chabon made every word count. It wasn't a page turner but the beautiful, dense writing was purposeful. This other book felt pretty for the sake of being pretty.

    I think Gabriel García Márquez is a good example of what you're rightly describing. I also once read a book called The Stone and the Flute. I may be exaggerating but in the middle of the story, the narrator was a statue for like 300 years (and at least a hundred pages). It was a slow section, but both purposeful and beautiful.

  6. You're absolutely right.

    Nowadays I don't simply read for enjoyment. I'm researching fellow authors, styles, craft, the audience. That means I'm cramming a ridiculous amount of books into my brain. I've gotten to the point where I skim over wordy pointless sections. I want beautiful writing to serve a purpose, too, otherwise it feels superficial.

  7. Wow -- congrats on the weight loss. And I so agree with you on your points about pretty vs. good and first person.


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