Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hot Buttons

Over at her blog, Jordan Summers posed the question of what (and I paraphrase) bugged folks about books lately, you know: what were the hot buttons.

One of the folks pegged too much snark, and I had to agree. The more I thought on this today, the more I realized it is far more of a hot button for me than all the other peeves.

I see the forced hilarity and biting witticism mostly in paranormal genres, and it reads like a string of bad one liners from open comedy mic night at the local college rathskellar. It’s a decided turn off. A few other folks came out in defense of snark calling it sarcasm, stating this is how they write, etc. I’m okay with that, everyone has a voice. I’m not dissing sarcasm either. I just don’t elect to read books that are ‘dark’ and then full of line after line after line of alleged clever shots. Farce more than has it’s place. I absolutely adore Terry Pratchett, and Douglass Adams. I like witty dialogue, and I like levity in decidedly heavy situations. But in this case the old adage “If some is good, more is better” does not apply. There’s too much forced farce in paranormals these days, paranormals that are labeled as dark, and contain supposedly tormented heroes. I have a hard time getting into that if it’s written as an episode of Laugh In meets Sex in the City. Angel, okay, like that. But even Buffy got a little too ‘hilarious’ for me at times. Sherrilyn Kenyon and Maggie Shayne do the sarcastic characters well: they have the edge, but they don’t get dopey.

And then, there is the Chapter 4 Curse. Jordan commented that it’s the hardest chapter to write because it’s something of a bridge, and I believe that. But I also think that when the rest of the book uses chapter 4 as the dive into the deep end, it’s symptomatic of weak editing. Someone else commented it could be a result of selling on pitch: strong 1-3, all else, enough to pass the test, but not necessarily make the grade. All of this "What I don't like" makes me wonder what exactly, then, do I like? So I'm going to put some thought into that and try to come up with a list of what I do like in my writers, and what I do appreciate, because I don't like always being focused on negative.

You know, in the end, we all have different hot buttons, right? So much of criticism boils down to taste. As writers we need to be tough, because the readers out there are tough, and they’re not afraid to speak up about what plagues them. I guess that’s why we cleave so strongly to our favorite authors, because they tend to serve up steadily dishes of what we enjoy. And that might explain why we get so itchy when the favorite author breaks out of the mold with something new. Man, and I want to get into this gig why ?

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