Shalanna (shalanna) wrote,

Authors: God is in the details

I can't tell you how many mysteries (small press and self-published for the Kindle, as well as NYC house output) I've read recently that leave me feeling unsatisfied and irritated with the author.

So many times, there's something that should have been properly explained or properly set up, but the author doesn't bother. Perhaps she or he figures that we TV/movie watchers can be distracted and won't notice a few plot holes. "Oooh, shiny!" will take our attention away from whatever it was that needed explaining, and then we'll forget alllll about it like good little dum-dums. Sorry . . . it doesn't work for me.

The reason I have always liked "Back to the Future" so much is not just because of Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd at the height of their powers. Not just because it's such a clever idea. Not just because I love that 1950s fantasy world of nostalgia and all the wonderful cars, furnishings, and clothes. No, it's because EVERYTHING is accounted for by the end of the story. Even the dog, Einstein, whom I thought might be an "oopsie" in the plot, is shown jumping out of the van at the end of the film. So every detail is explained and it's all wrapped up. Even with the "hook" for the sequel at the end, we feel satisfied and we'd have been happy with no sequel and just our own imaginations to say that they lived happily ever after.

But many, MANY books that I read today (ones that are recently published) don't bother to tie up even the easiest of loose ends, and when there's an important question to be answered, they simply ignore it if it would make things tougher to write out. Characters are Too Stupid To Live or no one mentions the elephant in the room or an important clue is torn to bits and just "oh, well" forgotten about. With just a LITTLE work and care, these problems could be corrected and the storyline could be far more memorable.

Here's an example. In a NYC-published popular recent cozy, we have a man who tells a woman to come to a particular spot and watch for him to enter a restaurant. He says he's going to sit down with some people briefly, but then has his smartphone set to go off in about five minutes, and he'll beg off. Then he will exit the restaurant and go to a blue SUV parked on the street to wait for her. The heroine is intrigued. (He's in great demand as a semi-celebrity and every date they've tried to have has been interrupted, so this is the plan for them to sneak away together and have their first real date alone.)

So the heroine goes to this spot--a Christian Science Reading Room sort of place (remember those?) where you can go inside and read, and there's no one to monitor you, and this one is on the second floor across the street from the restaurant, so it's a perfect crow's nest. No one sees her going in, no one else is there, and of course she doesn't sign in. She plays on her Android tablet until she sees him going into the restaurant. She watches as if she's a hawk who knows a bunny is about to materialize, but he doesn't emerge from the restaurant. After about forty minutes she's angry enough to want to break up that little party and/or confront him. It's nearly nine o'clock and she hasn't eaten, and he knows that. She packs up her stuff (unfortunately not leaving anything behind but buttprints on the futon) and marches into the restaurant.

But he's not there. No large parties. It's all intimate dining and family seating. She makes a minor scene with the people at the front who seat you, but they insist he hasn't been here. Our Heroine feels this was yet another example of him "playing" her and sits down to have an elaborate dessert, defying anyone to say a word to her.

She marches back to her hotel room (they're on assignment out of town, of course) and flings the door open to find--his body sprawled out at the foot of her bed, of course. Dead, of course.

She screams and calls the police and does everything right, but naturally she is the major suspect. People say she wasn't seen until nine in the restaurant and she can't prove she was in the Reading Room watching for him. This kicks off the mystery.

Okay, fine. BUT! One little detail kept niggling at me for the rest of the book. I was confident this could be easily explained . . . but why, if he told her to meet him at the restaurant, was he in her room?

It's going to be the key to the plot! He is planting something in her things. Or he's searching for something that he's going to take or alter that she has. It's to sabotage her career with the company. Or there's some other good reason he is in there.

I'm waiting for the rest of the BOOK, but this is NEVER addressed. No one even ever ASKS why he was there when he was supposed to be meeting her, not even Our Sleuth. Wouldn't you wonder why he'd tell her to meet him at X and then he sneaks into her room? The cops are right to think that she lured him to her room to kill him. I'd think the same thing, except I'd marvel at her stupidity at not establishing an alibi and at leaving the body in her own room.

She never even tries to figure out what he was up to. She just says, "Oh, no, someone killed him in my room!" She is a real patsy and I kind of hate her from then on.

So much could have been done with this. He was there to plant something--and then she could have traced that back to find out who really did him in. He was there to steal something--and when she finds it on someone else, she can pounce. But no. We just kind of never know what the story really was, and it's irritating.

Details like this are common in today's not-vetted e-books. In fact, more e-books have "errors" that bug me than ever before. In lots of books, the heroine neglects to ask a simple question that anyone would naturally ask immediately, and goes on to ignore the issue through the entire book, not even answering/asking it in the final wrap-up. I don't mean the stupid stuff that happens in category romances, like the woman assuming he's cheating on her when the chick who was eating out with him was actually his cousin, but no one ever asks/tells anyone this until the end of the book. I mean things that create actual plot holes. Gaping plot holes. Things that I simply cannot BELIEVE. And the suspenders of disbelief snap, and the book is over for me.

What have you seen in recent novels, movies, or TV shows that's a deal-breaker for you? I'll bet you have a particular incident that you could have fixed easily if only you were the lucky writer!
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