Monday Musing: Here We Go Again
Last Wednesday I talked about how readers don’t really care about adverbs, head-hopping, and fresh stories like agents/editors like to claim. We’re going to talk about the latter today.
For over a year I’ve been getting the Vine newsletter from Amazon. That lets me pick out books and also things like Ring Pops, mouse pads, lawn darts, and Tide detergent to try and review. The two or so books I could get a month sustained a lot of reading for the last year or so.
Lately I haven’t been getting so many books from there. Why? Because most of them seem the same. It’s kind of a game anymore to run through the newsletter and cross things off. Here are a few of the most common storylines under the general fiction or literary fiction categories:
- Mother-daughter bonding
- Family tragedy
- Immigrants adapting
So as I said, it’s become a bit of a game to look at the descriptions and see which one the book falls into. Some it’s easy because they say it right off the bat. Others it might take looking until the end of the description. No matter the case, I see it and then I move on.
Unlike agents/editors/the general public I don’t want the same thing rehashed endlessly. One of the books I got was “The Widower’s Tale” which was an OK book, but the problem I noted was so much of it I’d seen before. The main character is an academic from Massachusetts? His girlfriend gets breast cancer and loses her hair? Shocking!
Nothing against Massachusetts academics or breast cancer sufferers/survivors, but these things have been in a number of books/movies already. As I joke in my review, there are probably 2,000 Lifetime movies already on breast cancer. Do we need another?
It’s not like I’m asking you to reinvent the wheel, but at least give her a different kind of cancer. How about ovarian cancer? Throat cancer? How about give HIM cancer instead. I mean, why is it usually the women who get it? And instead of being a stuffy Massachusetts librarian, why can’t he be an auto mechanic in Montana? Come on, stretch yourself a little!
It’s probably because writers, like everyone else, want to stick close to familiar ground. A lot of writers are Massachusetts academics, so that’s why they write about that. It’s also why so many people (including me!) use writers or English professors as their main characters.
And you know what, publishers keep publishing them and readers keep reading them. Why? Because we don’t really want anything radically new. It’s like with TV we just want all those old plots from “I Love Lucy” updated with new names and settings.
As I said in my Will Smith, Only Living Movie Star entry, there are certain themes that people go for time and again. The ones I listed above are obviously in the mix. In romance it’s usually some uptight chick mixing with some rogue/rake/scoundrel. Even Star Wars used that one!
So again, when you’re writing, don’t worry about reinventing the wheel; just slap some new campaign bumper stickers on it and call it a day.
Wednesday: Yann Martel proves (yet again) that agents are full of shit…