Friday, October 7, 2011

Reading Glom - Author Patterns


Wash, rinse, repeat...


Have you ever found a new author and suddenly you are in love? Suddenly, you want to read everything they've put out. So you go on a glom. You inhale every book -or near to it. Or perhaps this is a debut author, so you grab each new book as soon as it hits the shelves. And then you realize something.

The author is telling the same story. Over. And over. Again.

Ack!

The author has fallen into a plot holding pattern. Everything is basically the same. Same plot structure, same heroes and heroines hiding beneath different clothes. The strange thing is that if you read one book on it's own, it would be awesomesauce on a spoon. It's only when you read them in a glom that you notice this.

It's a strange predicament for me as a reader, because I still find myself loving the individual books, and the writer's style, and yet I'm left feeling somewhat dubious about this author. Will she do this all the time? Will the next book be that same? Likely.

As a writer, it gives me a bit of the willies. Will I do the same? Are my books going to be carbon copies of the older ones?

Similarities and themes can be expected. Writers tend to have certain themes and issues that call to them. And when one writes genre fiction, one definitely follows preconceived plot structures -to an extent. Murders will be solved in mysteries, bad guys will be confronted in thrillers, and the girl will get the guy in romances. Even so, how do we avoid falling into a plot holding pattern?

Because I have to believe that this is mainly a subconscious action on the writer's part.

I don't really have the answers. I suspect awareness is the first step. Vigilance is key. But there is also something else to consider. When an author gets to the point of publication, she learns that she is not just a writer, but a brand.

Selling books is a business. The author is the brand. She has to be to develop a fan base. Readers must recognize her, and know what to expect. This creates brand loyalty. So there is somewhat of a double-edged sword going on here. Veer too far off your path and readers feel betrayed; where is the story style they've come to respect? Stay too close in your plot comfort zone and you've got an endless repeat.

No doubt about it, we authors walk along a rocky road. One that can easily make us fall.

7 comments:

  1. Kristen,
    I *hate* books that are the same all over again. And I do think it takes perseverance and hard work not to do it. Do you think genre authors are more likely to do it, or is it just that they get into the pattern that pays?

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  2. Zan Marie -- I don't think genre writers are any more susceptible to writing for the money than any other writer. Of course, I think we're all writing in a genre, literary being another genre as well.

    When I speak to patterns in genres, I mean that there are certain constraints in some genres. Let's take romance, since I write it. You must have boy meets girl, first kiss, deeper emotional connection, first time, threat to drive them apart, profession of love, then the HEA. If you don't follow that, the reader will be dissatisfied. But there are endless ways in which to work that pattern. However, some writers find themselves stuck in working one pattern the exact same way over and over.

    In the same vein, however, you can get a literary writer who tells the same story, with the same themes over and over.

    Both scenarios result in the reader learning nothing new from that author. Which leads to boredom and disillusionment IMO. :)

    As for branding, the distracted and eccentric literary writer is just as much of a brand as is the dark and enigmatic mystery writer.

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  3. Kristen,
    LOL! Even as I hit post, I thought of some writers of "non" genre books that hit the repeat button too many times. I'm still unsure where my WIP fits in the categories. I call it a contemporary, mainstream, women's fiction, but then the definitions I find of women's fiction include romance. So who knows? ; )

    Making the sequel different will be just as challenging. Of course, there'll be no sequel if I never finish the first one. : D

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  4. Eek! You've scared me a little Kristen. I don't want to fall into this trap. Gotta work on making sure all my characters are as distinct as distinct can be.

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  5. Deniz -- I think we all do this to some extent. Like I said, we all have themes that like to explore. But I think it helps that we learn our patterns and stay aware of them. That way, we can see them emerging and do something about it! :)

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  6. Kristen,

    Oh lordy. Timely! (g) I think the key is to always push yourself out of your comfort zone--inch by inch, if necessary. Stretch your writing chops and realize that if something scares you, it's probably a good thing to attempt.

    I'm sort of going through this now--having finished BTPM, I'm ready to move on to its sequel, WIS... which, yeah, I'm scared to write. It has the same characters, of course, and a lot of the same themes, etc., but it's SUCH a different book because the stakes are so much higher and I'm attempting things I'm not really sure how to begin to tackle. I think it would be very easy to fall into a pattern of wanting to throw the same characters back together, to make their road, while a bumpy one, one that always leads back to one another. But where's the fun in that? (g)

    As for books...yeah, I can think of a very popular series that seriously is the same thing over and over again. The author is not afraid to hit that repeat button, I'll tell you that much. I have the latest in the series and I haven't cracked it yet... no real dying urge to either because I know what's in store... Yeah, while that may be a good thing for a while--the branding and rinse/repeat thing--it does get old after a while.. Even for a die hard such as myself. (g)

    Jen

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  7. by way of example I give you Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs.

    Um, and as for me, let's just get one thing published before i worry about an established pattern.

    I'm writing murder mystery and I have in mind a sequel (in that is uses the same characters from book one) that is also a murder mystery, but I think quite different. More an outsider solves a murder, rather than "one of our own might be a murderer" so I'm happy with that. And then add in my other story ideas of the sci fi reimagining of a famous explorer and my coming of age, run away king and... I can't really see a pattern developing in any of that.

    For once I've read one of these posts and not got all worried about something I'm doing wrong. :-)

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