Monday, October 22, 2012

Venality vs. Banality


Had a REALLY rough week at the day job last week.  Spent the weekend recovering.  I bake when I am stressed.  On Sunday I made:  Chocolate cupcakes; carrot cake cupcakes; a casserole, and fresh bread (by hand, the breadmaker died and the replacement was crushed in delivery).  All are in the freezer to be doled out so that I don't go completely carb crazy over the next little bit.

I am thus feeling much better. 

Of course I am also fretting a bit.  I re-read the big knock-down fight scene in the book I turned in and it needs some revision.  UGH.  Contacted the editor, but she said wait until it's going through edits.  So I shall.  But I will fidget in the meantime hoping she likes the book as a whole.

In the meantime I started reading several fantasy works written in 3rd person.  My individual series coming up is a fantasy series, and the editor is hoping for third person.  (Not my favorite.  I can do it, but writing in 1st is MUCH more natural for me.)  I picked up the first 4 in a WILDLY popular series that is praised hugely by the critics, and pulled out my faithful classics from the storage boxes they were languishing in.

And I discovered something.

The new series is beautifully written, undeniably brilliant, compelling . . . and I really don't like it.  I can read it for a bit, then I have to put it down and look at something else.  But then it nags at me and I go back--but I can't keep reading because . . .


I mean, seriously!  I picked these books up because I wanted to read and study them to see what the guy did right.  So why can't I read them? But why can't I put them down?

My conclusion.  I can't put them down because they are beautifully written, brilliant, and the characters are compelling.

I can't keep reading it because they are also just incredibly venal, base, and really pretty disgusting.  Aside from the main characters nearly everyone in the book is just a hideous human being--power grubbing, manipulative, vicious.  Pick a vice, any vice, and it is brilliantly and meticulously portrayed. 


Okay, I know that incest, rape, murder, infidelity, and the like are common.  Laws and religion wouldn't be necessary if people didn't do heinous things.  BUT EVERY FREAKING CHARACTER except the heroes?  Really? 

Yes, there are those who help the heroes--but they are always serving their own agenda.

How depressing.

And the violence is staggering.  Yes, it is a barbarianesque set of cultures in a midieval-style world.  It's a dark setting.  I don't generally mind dark.  Hell, I've been accused of being pretty damned dark in my own writing. (Don't believe me?  Re-read Touch of Madness.)

I dislike the books pretty intensely.  And yet I am desperate to find out what FINALLY happens to the main leads.  (Other than the two that are already quite messily dead, and the one that has gone bug nuts mad.)

Brilliant.  The equivalent of book crack.  You know it's bad for you, but you can't stop.  When I read this stuff I am depressed.  But I can't seem to not read it. 

I doubt myself, wondering if I will ever create anything that compelling, if my talent can stretch that far.  I love writing, and I want to be brilliant.  But I wanted to be a brilliant visual artist as well.  And I just flat didn't have the chops.  I have the eye.  I can SEE what needs to be there (in my head), I can see what works and doesn't (although I can't always explain why).  But I couldn't execute what I saw.  I simply wasn't good enough.  And while you can learn techniques and craftsmanship, hard work will only take you so far.  It is the difference between an average college hoops player and Michael Jordan at his prime.

Writing is the same.  You can practice your craft.  But ultimately there is an element that is pure talent.  That indefinable "magic." The author of the new series (and the authors of the older ones too) absolutely have it.

I hope I do.

1 comment:

agofroggy said...

No doubt about it you definately GOT IT.....your books are the ones we love, cant put down, and hate to finish ..... i know that im not the only one that wants to know the name of the book you hated but couldnt put down....