I was reading a description for a book on Paperback Swap earlier, along with the comments that were made about it, and I became a little frustrated. Why is it that there are some books that their descriptions sound so interesting, but in the back of your mind there’s that voice saying, “read what other people had to say,” and when you do you realize that what could have been a really interesting book has been contaminated and now it’s not really worth reading anymore.
I’ve noticed this more lately. Maybe (most likely) it’s because I’ve started reading different books lately. Until recently I read almost exclusively Christian fiction, but lately I’ve done some expanding into other secular fictions, and it’s been since then that I’ve noticed this annoying trend.
I recently read the description for a novel that I thought sounded pretty interesting, but something in the description made me pause and stop to read the ratings that readers had posted. It had decent ratings, but the comments that were written made me realize that the pretty interesting story was basically an excuse to write graphic sex scenes. It almost makes me wish that you could get the “adapted for TV” version like you can with some movies, with the really disturbing stuff taken out and the rest of the story that is interesting left in.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total prude; sex scenes don’t bother me, but when they’re there simply to be there it bothers me. I recently read a book by Author X (all names have been changed to protect those who frustrate me). Now, I’ve read books her books before(and by read I mean I’ve stood in bookstores and read parts of) and I liked them, so I thought I’d like the book. I stopped reading in the first fifty pages because while the characters were pretty interesting I read the first sex scene and was just like, “Oh please no.” The scene was between two characters who didn’t really know one another and it felt more like an excuse to shove them into bed than an actual relationship. Now don’t get me wrong. I realize that this happens, but within a romance novel, when the two characters in the scene are the two that are falling in love, I found it quite off-putting.
I’ve noticed the same thing about language recently, too. Again, I can read swearing without it bothering me all that much. But in some books there is just so much language and it seems unnecessary to me. When a writer can’t write dialogue without dropping an F-bomb every other sentence (or more often) it just comes across as weak writing. I’m not so naïve to say that there aren’t people out there who talk like this – I lived next to a prime example for a year – I’m just saying that not everyone talks that way. Now I think that language is a way that you can put flavor into a character, but not all of your characters can talk this way (of course there are exceptions, as one of my writing professors pointed out, such as if your setting is back stage on a rock-and-roll band tour and your characters all exist within this world, then I suppose it’s acceptable).
Thankfully not all authors are like this. Authors like Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella, Lauren Willig and Susan Elizabeth Phillips manage to tell great romances without making the sex completely senseless, and they can do it without swearing every other word. They employ these things, but do so without letting them take over the story. And I really appreciate that.