I read Ariel's and Latayne's posts on why they don't read certain books--and all of your comments--with a mix of delight and terror. On one hand, I cheered what we all find annoying--clumsiness, predictability, and weather reports. My personal dis-qualifier is clutter. Superfluous words are like fingernails on the chalkboard to me.
On the other hand, I held your comments up to my work in progress like a template and found myself swimming in a sea of self-doubt.
Oh dear, I write in first person.
Is there enough rising antagonism to hold a reader?
Why are there so many characters in this story? Could some of you please go home?
It's a miracle, really, that we connect with readers at all.
Rather than slump into depression, I gave myself a pep talk: You can't please everyone, Miss Patti! You will not sell your books to every English-speaker in the world. But you will find an audience, albeit a small one, if you write to please yourself. (This sounds selfish, but it is writing to what God created me to write.)
Wait! My self-lecture isn't over until I recite these words from Henry James:
"Art derives a considerable part of its beneficial exercise from flying in the face of presumptions."
I have a particular example for what James is talking about that delights me. After hearing Kate DiCamillo speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing, I bought her novel, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane to read on the plane. DiCamillo writes young adult fiction brilliantly. You may know her from The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie.
I'm so glad she ignored one of the golden nuggets of fiction writing: Avoid passive characters like the plague. They're boring, the worst kind of insult an author can inflict on a reader.
In DiCamillo's story, Edward is a china rabbit. He can't move or speak. He is hopelessly subject to the whims of a succession of owners. He spends a good deal of time on the bottom of the ocean and under increasing loads of trash in a dump. He is an observer of life.
And yet, once I started reading, I couldn't stop. DiCamillo takes a china rabbit on an adventure that transforms him, and me, forever.
All we said this week about what we didn't want to read has spurred me on to tighten my craft while flapping my wings with the goal of shattering presumptions.
Please, please, please share any works of fiction you believe fly in the face of presumption and do it so beautifully that they have become a favorite.