I am increasingly dropping an email to authors whose books either end on a hook or which, with a view to getting their readers to buy their next book, leave half the threads in the story unfinished. This does not make for a satisfactory ending.
It seems that all the basics of a good book have now been dumped in order to get readers to dish out for the next book. Here are the basics.
1. Every single plot or question must be answered to the complete satisfaction of the reader.
2. If the book has a poweful beginning, it must have a powerful ending. Powerful characters canot end as wimps with indecisive outcomes.
3.Every step of the way must be logical, and the ending must be equally logical.
4. All characters must be introduced fairly early on. Introducing the villain right at the end of the book means that the reader didn't have sufficient clues to work it out. Most of the fun of reading is being able to work it out and see if one was right. If all the characters aren't there, it's cheating.
5. Best selling books are plot driven not character driven. However, strong characters are essential to a plot driven book. Writing about weak people with character faults (as per writing courses doesn't work). Did Tarzan have a faulty character? Did Hari Seldon or Lazarus Long? How about D'Artagnon or Alan Quatermain? James Bond certainly didn't have and nor did Harry Potter. Good, strong characters, despite what you have been told do not have a character fault to overcome, and they do not have to 'learn' anything. Characters respod to the plot - not the otherway round.
https://prowritingaid.com/art/461/Why-Y … -Hook.aspx
What say you.
I agree. I recently read a spy thriller which was a good story, but the MAIN "hook" of the story - the thing that had kept me reading all the way through - was not resolved.
This particular author hasn't even written the next book yet, and apparently he averages one book per year. So if I want to find out the solution, I can pre-order his next book.
I am tempted to write and tell him what he can do with it.
Hello Marisa Wright,
Even though I agree with most of Tess' points, I am not sure if I can agree with her thought that the plot is more important than the character, maybe, but I am not sure.
My only purely escapist reading has been primarily Tom Clancy's books, (although John Jakes writings are also on the top of my list of enjoyable reads). And although I do enjoy the theme of his plots, it is the recurring main characters that keep me waiting for his next book.
Luckily for me, Mr. Clancy doesn't leave me hanging with an ending "hook." If he did, then I would be shooting off multiples of those emails you refer to.
I think the point Tess is making is that a book should have the plot as the driving force, rather than the plot being derived from the need to fix one character's flawed personality.
I have to say, this is one of the things that annoys me about modern Romance genre stories. Nowadays you're not allowed to have two people just kept apart by circumstances or events. They must each have some kind of personal problem that must be fixed before they can have a successful relationship.
In other words, both the hero and the heroine must "go on a journey"...
You got it right. As I pointed out, all the great heroes of old did not have character defects...
Hello again Marisa, I have a question.
You mention "Romance genre." Is that a popular read for you?
I know it may show the chauvinism of my generation, or maybe just a narrowness of interests, but I don't think I have ever read a "romance" novel. Is that a popular female reader's choice? I think so, or I wouldn't have asked, but a chance for confirmation would make me more secure in my opinion.
And just to further the discussion; couldn't the importance of character inclusion to a reader, (as in my enjoyment of Clancy's Jack Ryan character as a reason to read more of his writings), also fall into the "character-driven" description of a prime factor of a writing? This question is for you too Tess.
For instance, Clancy's late-life writings have mostly been co-authored, and many of the primary characters of his early writings are absent. And I miss them. Those reads are not quite as satisfying for me.
I am thinking that a description of character-driven being only that of following a character's development as being too narrow.
There is a big difference between having important characters in a novel, and having the novel being character-driven.
For instance, I adore Donna Leon's crime novels set in Venice. They are accounts of the cases of Inspector Brunetti. So in that sense, without Brunetti there is no novel. I have read some of Leon's books without Brunetti, and I don't like them. BUT Brunetti's wants and needs and "journey" don't drive the plot. What drives the plot is the crime and the need to solve it. So those novels are not character-driven.
As for Romance - yes, that's a very particular genre of novel which is hugely popular with female readers. I don't like it much myself, I find it too overblown and it irritates me that its rules are so rigid. Harlequin is the biggest publisher. I've written a couple of Hubs on the genre if you're interested to know more.
Tom Clancy's books are plot drive, not character driven. For a book to be character driven, Jack Ryan wouldn't be called in to solve a problem. Jack Ryan would be walking in the street and he would be a alcoholic. His alcoholism would get him into trouble. Books that are character driven means it's the character of the protagonist that gets him into the situation. In Clancy's book, the plot is what someone did to America, etc.
Hello Tess, and there you have the reason I took the hedge of a qualifying "maybe." From your response, I am not sure I addressed your point correctly.
Understand that I am shooting from the hip, and not offering a profound thought.
I know Clancy's books are plot driven, and yes, the theme of his plots is one I enjoy reading. But, I have been disappointed when characters I consider necessary to maintain the lure of his plots, (at least for me), are missing.
I understand the point of your Jack Ryan example; so no, I did not mean to come down on the side of character-driven plots - even if it sounded that way. Reads that would fit your explanation of character-driven; as in the journey involves some mountain to climb or defect to overcome, don't generally appeal to me.
As to your "trilogy" and other examples - I do agree. I would enjoy a trilogy ending that completed the plot, but left a door open. On the other hand, and like you, I wouldn't bother with further readings if the ending left me hanging and unfulfilled.
So, let the emails fly!
Glad there are other people who get just as frustrated as I do!
I just read a book which engendered the same frustration but for slightly different reasons. It was State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.
A researcher dies mysteriously on a research project in the Amazon and one of his colleagues is sent to find out what happened. It turns out he's not dead after all - which was no surprise to me, I'd been waiting for that discovery since the second chapter - and he is eventually returned to his family. So you'd think this book falls into the category where everything is resolved at the end. But no - because the protagonist isn't the missing researcher, he's absent for most of the book. The protagonist is the colleague sent to find him, and her story isn't resolved at all. She's one of those characters with all kinds of issues at the start of the book, and you assume the book is going to be about her "journey" - but we're left at the end of the book with her seemingly having learned nothing from her ordeal, and with no idea what she might or might not do next.
When I was working in London as a book editor for two publishing houses, I learnt the criteria for publishing books these days. It's how much of a following the writer has and/or how much the publisher has to invest in the writer for name recognition. That's the main criteria anyway. They use copy editors or ghostwriters to write the rest.
Here's the other thing I found out. Publishers have no idea what will sell or what won't. They depend on readers (freelance readers who read from the slush pile and from agents) to tell them.
Many of these readers did English courses at university where they were taught character driven/journey garbage, so now they look for books that are written to that formula.
I firmly believe that readers need to start talking about to university departments that teach this garbage.
Why don't you, Marisa. I have started doing that now. I get really peeved off authors. They tell me "It's a trilogy," or "You have to wait for the next series in the book. All will be explained then.." I tell them I won't be reading anymoe of their work because they didn't adhere to the principles of good and satisfying storytelling.
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