Apologies for my absence – I have been studying. Since I embarked on this literary escapade something has been bugging me: James Patterson. Thin characters and lazy prose. But people love the guy.
It must go deeper than clever marketing. It must. Even my misanthropic default setting credits the average adult with than being more than a glorified baby sucking at the ad man’s tit. What am I missing here?
In order to find out, I forced myself to study a few of his books.
It was a struggle. I almost gave up after reading this line:
And there was no denying: they were wonderful in bed – or wherever else they chose to have sex. They were tall, in wonderful shape, handsome as film stars.
Wonderful? Wonderful twice? Who the fuck edited this piece of shit? Buy the cunt a thesaurus. Add that to the prudish skirting around their lovemaking habits: “…or wherever else they chose to have sex.”
Naughty! She done it on the sofa once, she was such a slag.
And that was near the start of the book, the place you’re supposed to be dazzling your readers, right? I’m right, aren’t I?
Maybe I was wrong about people. Maybe Sid Vicious had a point.
“I’ve met the man on the street. He’s a cunt.”
I trudged on. I forced myself. In fact, I have heard that in the next 50 Shades novel, Christian makes Ana read James Patterson’s entire works as he does her over an antique coffee table. And if she’s really bad, he makes her read EL James. (#meta)
Anyway, something odd started happening – I found myself thinking about the novels. I guess that’s why people call them “Hooks.” They got right under my skin. I felt a little dirty whenever I read a chapter or two. Thank God for Kindles, eh? Now no one on the train can judge me.
It’s Dostoyevsky, dahling…
Could I tell you about the characters and the settings? Fuck no. That shit went out of my mind the second I read all the generic, dull descriptions. But it’s the pacing; he’s a genius at pacing. (Bollocks, just used ‘pacing’ twice… #hypocrite)
Then I looked at my novel. It was terrible. Long stretches of nothing, bookended by significant events that have no weight because I haven’t built them up enough. And it was at that point, I put it in a dark corner and started again.
To assume the first attempt at something will be successful is both arrogant and stupid. Practice is what makes us great. Failing and learning and improving.
I have a real problem writing protagonists – I find them boring. Whenever I watch Star Wars, I’m always rooting for Vader. In 1997, I hoped that George Lucas’s new cuts would change the end of Jedi to see Luke turning to the Dark Side and the Empire winning. Unfortunately, what we got was a musical performance in Jabba’s Palace by a blue elephant, a CGI Sarlacc tongue and Hayden fucking Christensen.
What I do to get around my boredom of protagonists is make them, essentially, bad people. I don’t think you necessarily have to relate to the primary character to enjoy the book (look at Martin Amis’s Money or John Niven’s Kill Your Friends), but you do have to make them interesting.
So if I combine some decent prose with an interesting protagonist and crib the pacing from a James Patterson novel? Well, that could be pretty could. I’d read that. Gone Girl is an example of such a novel. Both narrators are dicks, but they’re interesting and the prose is great. And the icing on the cake? It’s got a killer plot.
I read excerpts from Amazon’s charts every now and then and I wonder why the fuck many of them struck a chord with the novel-reading public. Simple: they’re gripping. People can forgive mediocre writing, but they cannot forgive being bored. However, saying that, just because something has a great hook or a gripping plot, that doesn’t mean that it should be badly written. It’s okay to be accessible and classy. Like George Clooney, really.
Deep breath. Let’s begin again…