Guys, I need new icons like mad
. Anybody have a direction they can point me for new ones?
Secondly, IT'S ESSAY TIME.
Well, not an essay precisely, because I'm not really sure what I'm irate about. Working through feelings. Group therapy. Group writing therapy.
The thing is, I read a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean multiple books a week. If I'm not reading new books, I'm at least rereading old ones, some of them so well-loved I can quote passages. Books and reading have always been important to me, and I spend a lot of time with them. That passionate love affair with the written word spills over into writing, leading me to post things like this, write fanfiction, and fearfully and hesitantly work on a novel of my own invention. (Lord have mercy.)
But I've noticed a troubling trend that I'm having difficulty wrapping my head around. I'm not sure if it's my distance from active classroom analysis or just the hazy generality of a problem, but I'm really bothered and I'm not entirely sure what I'm bothered about. Recently, I've been reading both commissioned work and fanfic that quite frankly read like soda pop that's lost its fizz. It may be sweet and it may do a little to wet the thirst, but it's altogether unsatisfying and just not as exciting as it ought to be.
A major part of my gripe (I think) is actually mechanical. I've been reading a lot of straightforward sentences. Not that there's anything wrong with straightforward, mind, but I keep coming away from stories feeling like I've been slapped with prose. Subject-verb-object, subject-verb-object, every single sentence. It's gotten to a point that I get kind of excited when I see an offset clause or prepositional phrase. Names are either overused, with no pronouns in sight, or awkwardly replaced by descriptors. "The girl" instead of "Mary," for instance. Dialogue feels stilted and unnatural, expository dumps instead of human conversation. Descriptions are either entirely absent, or so florid they're absurd.
Then we have plots and the characters that inhabit them. Heavens above. I will be completely honest and say that while I'm perfectly capable of keeping up with a large cast of characters and a convoluted plot, those kinds of stories are not my favorites. Especially when I'm reading for pure pleasure, I prefer a story that is easily memorable, with a progression that doesn't require too much convoluted thinking to suss out. But lately, I've caught myself getting really, really bored
. I have seen the same plots recycled the same ways over and over again, the same tired devices punched out of the same cardboard characters. Don't get me wrong; nothing is new. The formula for any story is hero-obstacle-goal, and it's only variations on that theme that keep us from writing the same story verbatim every single time. It's just the variations aren't there. Same story, same people, subject-verb-object, snore.
It is a sad and sorry predicament, made doubly so by the fact that I'm not here to pull pigtails. My goal is not to offend and start wank and point fingers. A discussion would be great, because I'm not sure if it's only my perception, only my choices, or if there really is a curve toward pop-tart fiction. I do know that it's possible for fiction to swing dramatically in the opposite direction, and become so pretentious as to be practically unreadable; that's no good, either. Fanfic has always been a sort of saving grace for me, because fanfic writers are often very good at taking stories unexpected directions, challenging norms and even subverting narrative traditions without sacrificing the fun of reading. When I see fanfic following the same unfortunate direction as published work, though, I start getting really nervous.
So, what is it? Is this really a problem, or is this a warped opinion I've picked up through a long string of bad reading choices? If it is a problem, why
is it a problem? What is the appeal of the very simple and very boxy? How do we create good fiction, both in salable print and online? What, to you, creates that gap between the horrible, the so-so, and the absolutely incredible?