But he wanted to try it. I had disposed of my copy, so I bought him a used one.
Charlie: I like this book! The characters are real, believable and authentic. There's a lot of detail. It makes the characters and the setting come alive.
Me: Keep reading.
Charlie: It's getting a little tedious. The author has already established credibility; now the author is just showing off how much the author knows about the setting.
Me: It gets worse.
Charlie: These characters don't make any sense! Why would they do the things they do? The kind of people the author has set them up to be wouldn't do this or say that or put up with the situation. And why do we need all this history of the area?
Me: It gets worse.
Charlie: I DON'T BELIEVE THIS!
Me: I know what part you just read.
Charlie: I finished that damn book. I just skimmed the last part of it. It had no integrity. The author didn't stay true to the characters or the storyline established in the beginning. The characters kept doing things, but none of it meant anything.
Me: Maybe we're not giving it enough credit. Maybe it's meant to play the male exploitative acquisitive principle off against the female personal nurturing principle.
Charlie: Well, it doesn't do it.
And so, fellow writers, let us keep in mind, as we write our stories, these guidelines:
- establish the setting with authority at the beginning and then only touch on it as necessary
- establish the characters, their strengths and flaws; if the character acts out of the general personality you've given him/her, make it reveal depths rather than letting it outrage reason
- make the storyline make sense on its own terms: in real life, things happen and then other things happen; in a story, things happen for a reason and to a purpose; the reason cannot be "because the author made it happen" and the purpose cannot be "because the author wants it to"
- the best stories say something about life or an aspect of life, and work as story and as commentary
Don't let your book be one that Charlie and I agree is a waste of paper (or electronic power). It doesn't happen very often. Don't let it happen to you.