The other day, I went looking for a book to read. That’s usually my reward to myself after I finish a book and make sure it launches all right. But I was about a week behind this time because my evil muse hijacked my mind and decided I needed to write something immediately and not rest and relax. Anyway . . . I finally made my way to Amazon and went trolling for something new to read. I wanted something entertaining, not to intellectually taxing and something that would hold my interest. What I didn’t expect was the amount of WTFery I found in the way of traditionally published books.
The first book I looked at was written by a writer I’ve read before. I’ve enjoyed some of their work and haven’t been hit too hard in the face with WTFery in those titles. But I couldn’t get past the blurb. It clearly signaled urban fantasy. But it lost me when I could start ticking off the items on the woke checklist for characters. My brain stuttered when it came to the conjoined twins who were also shifters. Mind you, the author may have been able to pull it off, but how the hell would you make that work? How had they not been killed either in the shift or by other shifters?
But that wasn’t what had me metaphorically putting the book down and walking slowly away, never turning my back on it.
What did was after going through the laundry list of supernaturals the main character associated with–and did so apparently by choice–and noting the main character is also a supernatural, the blurb tells the reader MC doesn’t want to be involved with supernaturals. What?
You’ve hit my limit of too many contradictions to be ignored.
So I went looking for something else to read.
I settled on another UF novel by yet another author whose work I’ve read before and enjoyed. The premise intrigued me even if it was another attempt to check off at least one of the boxes. (If you haven’t come across it yet, there’s a whole new subgenre of handicapped main characters. It works if done well. If not, it becomes either the UF version of science fictions “man with boobs” or, more often in my experience, so far into the “there is no way that can happen that way” that it makes no sense.)
The lead character had been injured before the opening of the book and used the injury to begin a life she enjoyed. She coped with her lingering injury which prevented her from doing the job she’d been doing at the time of the injury. She was, for the first time in years, a normal person, living under the radar and enjoying it.
Then a murder occurs outside her job and her very carefully built life goes up in smoke,
So far, so good.
The problem comes in the execution of the conflict in the book. Before her injury, the main character would have been in the middle of the action. Now, she’s on the sidelines. That makes it difficult for the author and for the reader when 1) it is the main character on the sidelines and 2) the book is written in first person.
Because of that, the book is mainly conversations. People telling the main character what they found out. Even then, that is mainly done through conversations with others or through computer searches. Until the end of the book, there’s no real action after the initial murder. Even that final confrontation falls a little flat in one way because the main character is away from the rest of her team and can’t see what they are doing and so focused on trying to save lives we learn nothing about who the bad guys are.
And that leads me to my final issue with the book. There was no closure. No solution to the problem they faced. It wasn’t a classic cliffhanger because no one was left hanging off the proverbial cliff. But the danger still exists. We still don’t know who the bad guys are, even the more immediate ones. In fact, as readers we know very little more about the bad guys than we did at the beginning of the book.
The saving grace is the main character. Her voice is interesting enough it kept me reading. But, if I have to commit to reading book two, which is due out until the end of the year, I’d probably say no. At least not if I have to pay full price for the book. While the main character is interesting enough, the book left me unsatisfied. There were questions it could have answered without giving away the overall plot arc and it didn’t. Instead, it focused more on giving us backstory and building (or re-building) relationships.
There’s nothing wrong with that. it’s just not my cup of tea.
All of this is a round about way of say we, as authors, need to remember to give the reader what he or she wants. If writing a UF with mystery elements or mystery with UF elements, you need to have some sort of conclusion. It doesn’t have to answer all the questions. But books, especially traditionally published books, don’t tend to come out quickly enough to keep readers interested if you don’t hit certain notes.
And, for me at least, neither book hit the notes necessary to either get me to buy it or to convince me I want to read the next book in the series.
But it was a learning experience for me and something I will keep in mind going forward with my own writing.
Speaking of which, Jaguar Rising is now out in print and digital format.
Life changed for Mackenzie Santos more than a decade ago when she woke on a slab in the morgue. If that wasn’t bad enough, then she started turning furry.
And that was just the beginning of the changes in her life and in the world around her.
Since then, Mac’s life has been filled with more twists and turns than a roller coaster. Her responsibilities as cop, mother, pride alpha and member of the Tribunal mean she’s seen the best and worst in both the human and paranormal worlds. . . and the worst is yet to come. It seems someone plans to celebrate her promotion with a real bang!
A monster stalks the streets of Dallas, It has targeted Mac and those close to her. Worse, this “monster” knows her. It spent years studying her, learning her strengths and weaknesses. Worse, it isn’t afraid of harming innocents in its quest to get to her.
Mac will do whatever it takes to bring down this new threat because failure means more than just death. It means all-out war between humans and paras.
I can see why “being a supernatural” is not enough of a draw to hang out with people. Sure, there would be practical considerations, but it doesn’t mean common interests or compatible personalities.
I can see it, too. It’s not even a bad hook, honestly.
I can even see allowing some other Supernaturals into your area, even though you violently reject that aspect of yourself.
But…they do make the buy-in higher, and it’s something you’d have to show.
One trick that might work is that the main character is a bleeding heart– for a non-supernatural version, they freaking HATE the faith they were born and raised into. They avoid anything that even reminds them too much of it.
But (sympathetic character) needs help….
It raises the cost to buy into the story.
Yep. I’ve even read some good ones similar to that. But this wasn’t set up that way, at least not in the blurb. The MC wanted nothing to do with supernaturals, even though–or maybe because–she’s one herself. But she works with all these other supernaturals and there was nothing to indicate it was anything but a willing arrangement on her part. Like I said, I could have bought it if the author had left that one sentence out of the blurb.
Something more like “MC wanted nothing to do with the supernatural, even the ones that were relatives. Somehow she’d still collected (amusing list of examples)”….
Argh. Was it you that pointed out that a lot of folks seem to use tropes/tricks/hooks without understanding why they work? Would’ve been…. like three, four years ago.
Possibly. I know several of us have written about it.
1. Ya know, even in books where the MC never leaves the house, such as Nero Wolfe, there is SOMEONE who is active, such as Archie Goodwin. So, it CAN be done, but there has to be cleverness in leaving the MC on the sideline.
2. And not resolving ANY of the major plot lines is, in my opinion, a cheat and a sham and a Very Bad Thing.
2.a. Revert COMPLETELY to pulp writing, and churn out a book following the same storyline every month, and MAYBE it’s legit. Tough to do; it’s my understanding that’s what Jim Baen was trying to make happen with the magnificent “Universe” magazine, and that didn’t make a critical success.
3. Outrageous characterizations are marvelous in a story intending to be humorous, but you have to have drunk the electric kool-ade if you expect to be able to pile variation upon variation on a character, and then attempt a serious treatment. Twins? Interesting variant! Go for it! Conjoined twins? Risky, but has a possibility of offering some contrasting perspectives forced upon the MC(s) that can’t be avoided by running off to play with the orchids. Add the shape-shifter variant to that, and yup, you have crossed a line into a universe that has to be re-configured from shortly after the Big Bang to be coherent.
3. I think you were brave to try to swim the Amazon and come up with a good book. On the rare occasions when my brain is not mucked by Life, The Universe, and Everything, and I need material, the very farthest I can reach is the people who have seen my reviews and ask me to read their work, and I only do about one in ten of those; I also drop into the Baen publications from time to time. Sometimes, one of my kids, or my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, will give me something to read, or I’ll find some complacency-smashing book study that consumes me (Tony Evans’ “Oneness Embraced” is the most recent of those.)
Brave, I will be; and your work, out I will seek.
Peace be on your households.
Good to see you, Papa Pat! Brave isn’t exactly the right word. I was desperate after putting out one book and being ambushed by another.
I, too, have never looked for a book on Amazon, but sometimes I look at the book recommendations on Goodreads, if only to broaden the range.
OTOH, when I look at it and realize that it’s recommending the books I read about the same time, it does tend to have some CRAZY selections.