Thursday, December 13, 2012

Literary Innovation Is Not Always Good

"Innovation for its own sake will run you into a tree"

I have little patience for writers who think they are original.  If you've been following my blog recently you'll know that I don't believe in literary originality (not the 100 percent kind anyway) so I've come to see it as a novice trait to claim originality. If you believe you are original, TV Tropes will prove how wrong you are. Every once in a while I see someone desperate to prove they are original by doing something weird. To illustrate this I will use a book I started last night and stopped after twenty pages.

I won't say what it's called because this post is going to be negative and I believe one must earn the right to trash a book by finishing it. I could not finish it.  I could not stand it.  I put it away and started a new book that night. The praise on the front page should have sent red flags, "brave, original" when the premise sounded like straight forward fantasy fare. 

The summary in a nutshell: "A supernatural force invades a small town that is a supernaturally special place. A girl with the power to revive the dead is tested morally and logically." Not too terribly original now is it? The book opened with some girls finding a dead body on the beach; good so far. The chapter ended with a girl saying something mystical in 'the language of flowers'; also good. I expected some exposition in the next chapter but that's where it got weird.

The second chapter is a different setting and different characters; a housewife complaining about not having a career like her teacher friend while parts of a journal (which she may or may not be restoring) are spliced in between the paragraphs. The third chapter cuts off again; a police report. It looked like the following
8:38 Crime X
8:50 Event C
9:24 Person A arrives for shift
It was one page and the next chapter began. It was another single page that sounded more like a leaf from a philosopher's journal than a third person narration novel. The next chapter was about a bear and the man who left a jar of honey in his trash can for the bear to eat.

It was incomprehensible. It reminded me of the modernist works I had to read when I was in college. Those were so pretentious and absurd I yanked my hair plowing through them. Yet I was determined to reach page twenty because I wanted to give this author the benefit of the doubt. It was misplaced. The events of the opening pages were forgotten. I can only assume that this author was going for a 'sum is greater than the whole of its parts' thing with all the disjointed events and themes. To me it was a disorganized mess.

In my opinion, the author would have been wiser to follow a conventional route. Action Prologue (finding the guy on the beach) followed by the introduction and development of The Protagonist (who is she is, the origin of her powers, etc) and then some form of conflict (the outsider mentioned on the back cover premise). I would have liked that. After reading I would have used this post to say how much I liked it. Instead I'm using it to illustrate the problem of meaningless innovation.

Whatever you choose to do with your book is fine but at some point it has to match what is on the back cover/inside flap.  Otherwise you will confuse readers. They will become angry at the waste of time and money. I thought twenty pages was plenty generous so I put it back on the shelf.

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