I’ve fallen out with a novel I had eagerly bought. I picked it out the ways I always do. I went to one of my favorite bookstores (aka a big store with a decent, varied collection and offering comfy seating and quiet to explore), took 5-10 books whose premise (and genre) I was intrigued by and read a little. I chose the one that appealed to my current reading need: a fun, fast-paced, emotional romance novel. (While I’m also a huge fan of thrillers, I’m working on a romantic/comedy/drama manuscript myself, it makes more sense to research the market – seeing what sells while getting the escapism I need.)
And it started fine enough. For the first 50/100 pages or so, it was unputdownable. I read it on the bus, on the escalators, before I went to bed… If I wasn’t working (or resting my eyes), I was reading it. Sure, there were some wordy descriptions, a few mentions in a foreign language and some jargon related to the characters’ work. It set the mood. It was sort of relevant. I didn’t mind.
But then the characters dropped their foreign language randomly in their sentences regularly. Some characters were from that foreign country so it made sense. Regrettably, it wasn’t one of the languages I sort of spoke. No, they went beyond your typical travel phrases or widely-known vocabulary. Then there was the jargon rain. It kept coming and coming.
Now, the book is aimed more at a female audience. The romantic storyline, a typical female character (I’ll get into the “typical” in my next post) and even the job (decoration-related) probably made the majority of female readers happy. But, you see, when it comes to interior design, I’m more like a guy than a girl . I don’t have an extended furniture vocabulary . Sure, I love shopping and decorating myself, but I don’t want to know the name/root/history of every single thing. So the book slowed down further. I kept giving breaks and then coming back.
The third turn-off was the detailed description of the more minor characters- characters we run into once or twice as the reader. Yes, I could picture them all vividly, but it took me off from the plots and subplots. Now, there are some things the book did very well. The woven storylines, the setting and the dialogue were pretty good. But I started rolling my eyes way too often, and the initial love and enthusiasm disappeared.
The good news is, the book breaks some rules with novel-writing advice. It’s good news, because it proves you can follow your heart, write your novel your own way and get it published. The bad news is, this book isn’t a debut. So the writer had some leeway. First-timers don’t usually have this luxury.
Now, the point is this post isn’t to critique one particular book (hence the absence of the the title and the name of the author), but to spark a discussion about using other languages, jargon, and the amount of details insignificant characters deserve. Basically, this author hasn’t killed her darlings but has given birth to them over and over and over again.
How do you feel about the use of them? How generous are you with these when it comes to your fiction? As for my musings on “typical“ female character, that’ll be in my next post, so please stay tuned. Until then, you can check out the problem with following advice in this post The Problem With Following Advice, and Writing Your Novel Your Way.