On Writing: Lousy Finds from an LFL

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In the last three weeks, I have read three books by three famous authors, and all three were very disappointing. The last one, in fact, disappointed me so much that after I read the last page, I stood up and chunked it across the room. Before the bibliophiles hunt me down, let me state my case: 75% of the book is about an ex-con on parole (sort of) being hauled to Italy and forced to learn Italian for 8 hours a day. He asks his handler on several occasions, “Why not just put me in England or Australia and make my life a little easier?” The handler always shrugs and says, “It’s not up to me,” and then orders another espresso. I assumed that by the end of the novel, the MC and I would have a satisfactory answer.

But no.

The author was kind enough to include a note at the end of the book, where he talked about how much he loved Bologna and wanted to write a novel based in this beautiful city. So that’s it. There was no other reason to force the MC to learn Italian other than it allowed the author to show off.

I’m still mad about this, especially since I had just read two other, equally disappointing novels with pointless story arcs, redundant characters, non-relatable MCs, and exposition and plot holes galore. In the first book, the author purposefully gave the reader all the clues they needed to figure it all out, so all that was left was to sit around and wait for the detective to catch up. I kept expecting a twist at the end, something to justify the overload of information I received in Chapter Two, but no twist ever came. The second book ended with a terrorist take-over of a nuclear plant and chronicled every detail of the MC’s morning before she went inside to save all the hostages (she had two donuts for breakfast), and then the main villain accidentally drowned himself before she even pulled her hair back in a ponytail.

I’m not sure how stories like this get published. I have nothing positive to say about any of this, other than reading lousy books sure does show me exactly what not to do:

1) Don’t show off. If I’m dying to include a juicy bit of insider info, or talk about a fancy place I once lived, it better be 100% relevant to my story.

2) Don’t reveal your hand until the end. When I figure out Whodunit the page before the detective does, I feel smart. When I figure out Whodunit 250 pages before the detective does, I feel like going on GoodReads and leaving a 1-Star review.

3) Don’t be boring. No one wants to read about what someone else ate for breakfast.

4) Don’t kill villains off-screen. i.e. Main Characters must solve their own problems.

Tell me something you’ve learned from reading terrible books at Kate@KateLanders.com.

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