There are points in my month where sitting down with a good book is something I just have to do… It’s a compulsion… I’m an avid reader, but at this time I can read all night, grab a three hour sleep and then go write only to pick up a book again and start reading. When this happens I’m afraid I give in to my addiction and allow myself to be immersed in the written word.
I read a lot. In the last 24 hours I have devoured four books, some only 50,000 words but one was close to 100,000. I blame the dyslexia – I didn’t learn to read until I was 11 and the result wasn’t that I turned from books, but that I found new worlds and fantasies that I could truly experience. I read everything (not what had been set by the school but everything else). I know that my reading difficulties (yes, I still have some) means that I have trouble with ‘hard’ books. My tastes are confined by my ability to grasp the meaning behind the words so I tend to stick to popular culture.
I allow myself a budget every month to buy books, but after that I hit Kindle Unlimited and the free ones. I know that it means I read a lot of stuff that isn’t great… But every now and then I come across a gem. A diamond in the rough and then I can read everything on that author’s book list.
But there are those that aren’t bad, but at the same time they are not great. They have a foot in either camp. A good three star book. They are the ones I lament about. I have just finished two by the same author.
Because I hoped that she had changed her mistakes with the second… She hadn’t but I wish she had. Both stories are brilliant in their premise… They could have been great. They could have been 5 stars and in the top thousand… But they aren’t.
The author starts well, we are introduced to our heroine and we feel for her. We are there as she helps her friends and tries to get over her body dysmorphia and then she meets the man… He is everything she needs, even if she doesn’t realise it.
The next chapter – what has happened? Suddenly we are removed from the action. In fact there is nothing but action. We feel nothing and there are no insights. The author is reporting the story. It’s great but it is just a premise, an outline, a taster of what the book ought to be but isn’t.
And that is the problem. 50% of the bad books I read are good. The story is good and the writing isn’t bad but the author has reported everything. They don’t allow the reader to truly experience the story. We are told what to feel and what to believe. We are not shown it.
It’s the difference between:
Melissa looked in the mirror and sighed with ill-concealed sadness. For once she would like to feel sexy. Her friends could get away with wearing tiny little dresses but she couldn’t. Her legs were large and her hips larger. She had a small waist but if she dressed to accentuate it then her bust would try to spill out of her clothing. She just wished she could find someone to look past the curves and see her.
So here I have let the reader feel the fact Melissa has body dysmorphia.
Melissa looked in the mirror and saw her form, more fat that curvy. She knew that there were bits she liked about herself. Sighing she turned to leave…
Okay, so this says the same, but the reader has been told what to feel. There is no drawing in to see the second layer of the story. The reader doesn’t feel what Melissa feels.
That is the difference between a good story and a bad one. I know that sometimes I can make this mistake, but my editor tends to pick it up. So to all authors out there – don’t report, just write and take a breath. Slow the story down. Let the reader savour the sunset or the action. Just show them… Don’t just report it.