Thursday, January 28, 2010

Badly cobbled fiction

Posted by lea at 11:16 AM
Badly written fiction is so disappointing. Yes I'm looking at you, Alyson Noel. I recently read her chicklit book Fly Me to the Moon, and I'd be hard pressed to think of 2 more painful hours passed in recent history. The characters were stereotyped, the narrative amateurish and the climax LAME LAME LAME.

So why did I keep reading? If the whole thing was crappy I would've trashed it faster than last year's ballet flats, but it was just humorous enough, just romantic enough, just interesting enough that I read it through. In my defence, I speed read it. And I didn't have any other books on hand, having just finished my two most recent purchases. And I bought it for $3.95 at a discount book store. But I wish to God I'd just bought myself another Easy Way bubble tea with the money instead.

Enough excuses. Back to badly written fiction. It's disappointing because we expect publishers and editors to weed out the trash for us, but we should know from experience that publishers aren't always known for their literary taste, but their shark-like ability to smell money in the water. That leads me to the chicklit genre. Where there is demand, there will always be a scramble to supply, and I think this is how something like Fly Me to the Moon gets published. It has a hook (the heroine is a flight attendant so we get a sneak peek behind the matronly hair and polyester uniforms), it ostensibly has a plot (she finds her soon-to-be fiance in bed with another man and now has to rebuild her life), it has sex (modest scenes but at least we know the heroine has a libido) and most importantly in chicklit, the heroine is the underdog - the type of girl who trips over and embarrasses herself, who is attracted to but simultaneously hates the obvious hero for some perceived slight, and who has a sense of humour. Someone we might all relate to.

In short, it ticks all the right boxes. But it still sucks. Despite adhering to formula, despite falling into a popular genre and being possibly no worse than other crappy books (and there are a LOT in chicklit), this book fails because it's badly cobbled together. The heroine might travel to romantic faraway places but ultimately, it's like the teenage romance in which the guy brings his sister to the dance but the girl mistakes it as a date and throws punch in his face. Only worse and even more lame because this heroine is meant to be an adult.

The troubling thing is, Alyson Noel can write. No doubt if she wrote short stories and articles they would be a good read, but sustaining a whole novel proved too much for her with this storyline. This could have been a much better book with a better editor. Someone to tell her that the crux of the plot is lame, to give depth to her characters and cut out the more meandering parts of the novel.

Perhaps it's only in my romantic imagination that editors still do that sort of work? Refiners, so to speak, of published works. Because not all good writers make good novelists. And bad novelists write bad fiction. And bad fiction = cranky readers. Like me.


snowdomes said...

ohhh! Passionately angry today. So i'll give this one a miss. Give us your top 5 books of 2009. or have i missed that post?

Caesar on January 29, 2010 at 1:48 PM said...

Maybe it's like parking inspectors - they have to meet a certain quota.

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