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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Into The Weeds

As an avid reader, there's something that's been bugging me for quite a while. So I have to ask, how many times has this happened to you? You're reading an absolutely delicious book by one of your favorite authors. You're three-quarters of the way through it and, so far, it's been nothing but pure escapist joy. And then, and then... somewhere between the black moment and the resolution, the author drags you so far off into the weeds you begin to lose sight of why the book was so fabulous up to this point. And instead of ending with a bang or such a heart-wrenching scene you're forced to sit the box of tissues on the table next to you, it limps along to an uninspired conclusion that leaves you with the feeling you've been cheated somehow.

I have two theories about why this might happen.

a.) The author is a pantser and has no earthly idea how she is going to resolve the story, so she meanders around until the problem resolves itself. Or...

b.) The author pens the black moment, then realizes she could wrap it up in one more chapter. But wait! She's still 20 thousand words shy of her projected word count, so she shoves the hero and heroine into the weed patch and lets them grope around aimlessly--sometimes even doing things that run contrary to what we've learned about their character--until the necessary wordage has been achieved, at which time she thrusts them back together and resolves the thing.

Thankfully, most authors are not guilty of this. But there are a handful who come to my mind who are repeat offenders. One in particular is such a fabulous writer, I'm always heartbroken when she strays off the path. And I have to wonder how she stays on the bestseller lists.

Question--can you tell which of your favorite authors (no names, please) are plotters and which are pantsers just by reading their books?

Happy reading, and watch out for those weeds!



  1. I hate when this happens. LIke you, I don't run into it very often, but it does sort of dampen the effects of the earlier parts of the book.

  2. Nearly as bad is the book that ends too abruptly, like the author has run over on wd. ct. and has to resolve it quickly.

  3. Another thing that I've run into a few times is in a book that is a mystery or has suspense elements. Usually authors drop hints, red herrings, use foreshadowing, etc. that allow the reader to make guesses as to who the bad guy is or what mysterious thing happened. Every now and then I read a book where EVERYTHING in the resolution is a surprise, to the point that I can't even see the logic in "how" it played out that way. OR, perhaps just as disconcerting, is when the bad guy is a character we haven't even seen previously... someone we don't care about or have any feelings whatsoever about.

  4. Oh, yeah. I've read a few like that, too. The character tossed in at the last moment, or the convenient coincidence, or anything that magically appears in the story without explanation ticks me off. I always wonder how the authors get away with it.


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