Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fiction Errors

I am reading (correction: trying to read) a contemporary thriller (best seller, might I add) on the recommendation of a very earnest and misguided student. I can't. I just can't. Here's why:

Mistake # 1

In this scene, the protagonist is worried a man is spying on him from outside of the house. In response, "Kevin rushed over to the window and quickly lowered the miniblinds." First of all, the word rushed is sufficient in helping the reader understand the urgency of Kevin's actions. Actually, I would argue that the scenario itself is sufficient and that even the word "rushed" could be removed without any damage to the text. That makes the use of the adverb "quickly" not only mind-numbingly repetitive, but also offensive to my intelligence.

Secondly, when in this type of situation would anyone close the blinds in any manner other than "quickly"? Does the author actually think that without the word "quickly" I would envision Kevin sensually sauntering to the window, taking the miniblind cord and running it through his fingers (perhaps testing the delicate nylon against his cheek...anyone?), and, finally, throwing his head back with half closed eyes while the blinds whoosh into place? Nope. I think it's safe to cut the "quickly."

Mistake # 2

During the cursory assess-my-physical-appearance-in-the-mirror scene (please just stop, I'm begging you), the following occurs: "Somewhat attractive if he was any judge, but generally average looking. Not the kind of person stalked by a psychopath. He grunted and hurried to his room." He did what? Yes, you read right...he grunted. When was the last time you stood before the mirror and then, to conclude, grunted? Oh, that's right, never. I suggest, however, that you try it because it will give your spouse or significant other a good laugh. Cheers to the random and inappropriate ascribing of actions to characters!

Mistake # 3

I admit, this is arguably a preferential stylistic pet peeve: the freaking fragment. I understand. That occasionally it can be used for dramatic effect. But to abuse the privilege. is just so annoying. especially. when. the. lines. aren't. important or profound or even lovely. Equally obnoxious: the fragment that is so special it deserves it's own paragraph.

Example: [In reference to the travel posters hung throughout Kevin's house] "An unknowing person might think he ran a travel agency, but to Kevin the images were simply gateways to the real world, places he would one day visit to broaden his horizon.
To expand his understanding.
Even if Slater had been here, there would be no way to tell..."

Just found another good one. Can't help myself from including it. "Kevin looked at the pink ribbon trembling slightly in his hand and sat slowly at the dinette. The past. So long ago. He closed his eyes. [end chapter]"

Mistake # 4

Weird, impossible to imagine sensory details / descriptions. Example: "The silence felt thick." (Also its own paragraph in the text). This detail is such a "stopper" for me as a reader. I try to imagine silence feeling thick. I think of thick things: thighs, glue, water. Yes, the silence felt like water...viscous and wet. Beach. Summer days. Summer nights. Bikini contest! Oops...

Mistakes # 5-7

Outdated language: "He preferred to spin through the channels on the huge Sony picture tube...He flipped the station." It's a T.V. It's been a TV for like the last thirty years. It's a channel, not a station. P.S. this story is set in the "modern" day.

Characters who speak to themselves for the obvious benefit of the reader (because the author couldn't be bothered to find a better way): "The news. He stared at the aerial images, fascinated by the surreal shots of the smoldering car. His car. 'Wow,' he mumbled. 'That's me...I survived that'" What's particularly annoying about this example is that all that information is stuff the reader already knows because it was explicitly acted out for us in THE VERY SAME CHAPTER. No need for a recap already...or ever.

Trying to make profound statements about things that aren't profound or in moments where the narrative does not lend itself to these types of musings. While Kevin is watching the news, he sees a story about his recently bombed card. Suddenly, the author interjects, "The TV was yet another window into life--a wonderful montage of the world in all its beauty and ugliness. Didn't matter; it was real." I'm not even sure what this means, but it sure sounds deep.

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