Thursday, December 30, 2010

And back to world building...

Okay, I’ve talked about it and Sinead’s talked about it, but now I’m back to talking about it again. Sorry – but really it’s a topic that can stand a few posts. (I hope!)
I’m coming back to this again because I just bought this book where for me… it all goes wrong.

I had heard great things about this author and the series so I didn’t even buy the sample – just bought the whole thing and loaded it on to my Kindle. Now I wish I would have stuck to the sample. Or maybe it was a good thing because it will force me to go further into the book than I might have and maybe things will pick up once I’m better acclimated to the world.

For now though, I am a couple of chapters in to the story and so lost I couldn’t find my way out with a compass. The author is throwing really cool stuff at me – I do get that some of it is cool – but everything is being explained… sort of. But the author is also just going with it and not explaining other things which I think I need to know. I still don’t have the “big picture” concept. I’m not really sure what time I’m in, what the society is like, or the heroine’s place in any of this.

It hit me again how incredibly difficult this skill is. It makes me think of Eileen’s Messenger book. Bamm – girl is messenger between factions of a paranormals. I jumped into that book and instantly knew where I was, knew what the issues were and it just felt so effortless. The WORLD made sense.

I get it. There is something to be said for plunging into the story and allowing your readers to catch up. We know over explanations can bog a story down. However the reverse is still true. Not explaining anything or making assumptions can leave readers confused.

I remember JR Ward’s glossary which I thought was such a great idea, but then I realize that if those stories didn’t have the glossary – I still would have gotten what she was saying in context. In fact I don’t know that I ever even read the glossary. Things like a woman’s “needing” doesn’t take a whole lot explanation. The Omega – bad guy. Scribe Virgin – goddess like thing… maybe I don’t have the exact origin of what she is and can do… but I get it conceptually.

The problem with this book I’m reading is – and I’m making this example up – the author leads with words that have no sense or contextual understanding. “She used her errp on the door.” Then the author launches into this explanation of a magical mystical weapon known as the errp and I’m like huh?

There has to be that line between creating something new but still grounding it in a sense of reality that readers can relate to. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am by this book I thought I was going to love. But I just can’t seem to pick up what the author is putting down.

On a completely side note – another thing that’s going to change (at least my buying habits) with eBooks. If I had downloaded the free “sample” I wouldn’t have bought the book. Which means now more than ever those first few chapters are going to be so critical in terms of a book’s success.

I have to believe books like The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo are going to have a hard time making it in the future because the only way I know how people got through the book, is by having someone else say…. You need to get through the first 100 or so pages.

On the upside – I’m trying more authors than ever before because of the sample. On the downside - I’m ruling out books completely based on those first two chapters, books that ultimately might have proven to be good.


Eileen said...

You're so sweet, but I made it easy on myself. Most of my world is the Sacramento I can drive to in 20 minutes or so.

Interesting point about ebook buying habits though. But don't you think that most of us work so hard on our openings? I just added a new first scene to my WIP and it changed everything.

Maureen McGowan said...

"If I had downloaded the free “sample” I wouldn’t have bought the book. Which means now more than ever those first few chapters are going to be so critical in terms of a book’s success."

I've been thinking about this a lot too, Steph. Beginnings have always mattered... but with the e-book sample feature, they REALLY matter. If you don't absolutely grab the reader, they won't click buy...

Sinead M said...

Great post, Steph. So true on the beginnings, but I always believed they mattered as well. It was always in my head that an agent or editor was looking for a reason to put the book down.

And I guess, so now are readers. But I love the sample chapter idea as a way of finding great new authors.

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