Sunday, January 9, 2011

What Do You Mean,"I'm Predictable and Contrived"?

If you recall from past posts, I've opened up the option of visitors or commenters offering something they'd like to see discussed here.  Just in time for the new year, someone had something mentioned in a review and was bemused, perplexed and a bit taken aback because there was no meat to the heat.

What do I mean?  The author can understand the opinion but without giving a hint as to what made it contrived and/or predictable, the author can't adjust, fix or advance in her craft to address that which the reviewer thought let her/him down.

Yes, I realize what we reviewers say is mostly opinion but if what we say didn't matter, review sites would have cyber-crickets for readers.  Thing is, reviews matter and often do become helpful tools for authors to know not only what doesn't work but what does work. 

Although this is my blog and I'm only one voice in the vast array of reviewers out there,  I think it's good to hear from the other side of the coin, in this case, the author.  

With her permission and because I think it's a valid point and I do try to express the meat behind the heat in my own reviews, I'm going to share:

"if you write a review...and have less than glowing things to say, there is always a good chance you're right or at least what you have to say has merit, BUT think about it from the perspective of the author...if there is something bad or less than stellar, wouldn't you want to KNOW what's wrong? Simply saying something is poor or written badly isn't wrong, per se, but you might want to say why it's written badly. Did the author use purple prose? Repetitive statements? Plot seem so far out of left field you couldn't buy into it? If it's predictable, first, remember that in romance we WANT a HEA...we want to see the hero and heroine get together. BUT, how else was it predictable? Did the hero seem to show up at the right time? Did the heroine seem to say exactly what was needed to cool the hero down?

If you're the author, you want to know so you know what to improve for next time. We're human, so we know we make goof-ups. It happens. But if we don't know why you think something is less than stellar, we can't work on it for the next story."

I think her statements are worth reading.  And, in previous posts here a CC, I think I've addressed the need for reviewers to put what scenes or elements make them feel anything, good or bad.  Making a blanket general statement is perhaps fine on Amazon where there is a thirty second attention span. But on a review site where a reviewer is free to explore and expound upon the virtues of a book and they don't ... it's a let down.

In a book I recently reviewed, the word 'contrived' came to mind. There was more than enough to drag it down to a three rating so I didn't feel the need to heap on the negatives.  I will share that the overall affect of the story for me was that it was forced. Events that would otherwise not occur in such a fashion were compelled to happen just so the opportunities for their sexual relationship could be explored.  Yes, it was a short story and I realize they are very challenging to write. However, I've read shorts before that had a logical and natural progression with characters acting within the world building -- not against it as this book did.   It felt as though the scenes were written at a whim to make a certain thing occur and it felt rushed and shallow.  It had enough elements and dialogue for me to find enjoyment, hence the three rating, but by no means would that kind of writing end up on my keeper shelf.     If I had written in the review that the book was contrived, I would have pointed out what made it so without spoilers. Being contrived isn't necessarily a death knell for a story, just a point reduction as far as a review goes. (unless you were reading a mystery, then it just might)  Combine it with other things, like bad editing or a heroine TSTL, well then, that might sink the ship.  

So what do you think?  Is a book being predictable or contrived enough to make it a wall-banger? Is it enough to state that opinion in a reivew with no information to back it up?  Or should there be a few examples or mentions as to why? Or is being predictable someone else's idea of a relaxing story to while away the day?

Comments?  Counter Opinions?   I'd enjoy another perspective.