When Indie writer John Locke published his “how to” book about selling books, I’ve noted before an important point he made: You may not be a great writer, but you will need to be an entertaining writer. (Paraphrased). Putting aside any controversy about Locke, he clearly writes entertaining novels that people like. His point couldn’t be closer to the truth about novels.
When I download a book to one of my e-readers, I hope and expect to be entertained, if it’s fiction or non-fiction. Good writing isn’t only good grammar, punctuation, and format (an editor’s term…what does that mean….) it’s also about entertaining the reader. For example, the hoopla and blasting of “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer: Maybe she wasn’t Evelyn Waugh amongst writers, but people found her books entertaining (even if I didn’t), so good for her. The main issue I had with the novel was that the writer wasn’t willing to push the danger hard enough to reel in the reader. In other words, there was little doubt the teen lovers would be together and things would work out without a major challenge. (My focus is “Twilight” here.)
I like fiction to take me on a ride. I dislike roller coasters, so books are a great substitute. My favorite examples are books by ace author the late Michael Chrichton. “Timeline” begins with a group of people travelling to medieval France by means of a device, but everything goes wrong in the first five minutes so they are left on their own in a violent world where history underestimates pretty much everything. Almost every chapter ended with a character being slung to the ground with a sword over his/her head. I had to power-read it to relieve myself of the agony of the story. Today, it’s one of my favorites.
Chrichton really beat up the readers in the book “Jurassic Park.” Because of the success of the film, when I talk about the book, many say “Oh, right. I just saw the movie.” Noooo. The book for me was an exercise in displacement horror as the writer placed we poor readers on the menu of the dinosaurs, running like hell from the T-Rex with the kids for half of it, dodging the Pterodactyl, mercifully left out of the film and last but not least, we were inside with the scientists as several Velociraptors dropped through the ceiling munching out, not bothering to kill their prey first. By the end of “Jurassic Park” I needed a drink, a vacation, and didn’t want to see a lizard on my deck for weeks. However, the book is fantastic. I will never read it again.
Lastly, I always mention “Revolutionary Road” because it’s a banner book for author brutality to readers. We think we’re reading about 1950s “Blaming on the ‘Burbs” but I when I finished the book, (the film doesn’t carry the message as well) I needed to stop, look at my life in the suburbs, and realize April Wheeler was a lost soul.
While we read and write beautiful books, or novels that take us to interesting places, some writers will press the gas pedal and drive the reader into a wall. I say, bring it writers. I like a good ride and can handle a reader beating…once in a while.