At the beginning of October, I was going away for a week and was looking on Amazon for novels to add to my Kindle. (I was going to say “e-reader,” then I realized that I published a Kindle book that’s sold on Amazon so let’s just call a Kindle, a Kindle, shall we?) And, yes, I know I could be going to the library and I know that Amazon destroyed traditional publishing and now they’re evidently destroying everything else, but this is my blog and Amazon is my big, mean boyfriend that I just can’t help going back to over and over again no matter how badly he treats my family. He’s been so good to me and no one else understands him the way I do. Anyhoo, as I was reading book descriptions, I realized that there are certain fiction devices and synopsis buzzwords that make me look at the next book faster than Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes can get behind the wheel after a few cocktails. Let’s look at the top three.
1. Any plot that hinges on or changes due to something found in a trunk, a mysterious manuscript or a long lost letter. If the protagonist finds something that starts me on a downward spiral of story-within-a-story long, lost bullshit, I’m out of there. An old diary on a shelf always reads like a way for the author to integrate his/her great idea for a short story that Ploughshares and The New Yorker just won’t publish. I once read someone's writing class assignment where a woman found a manuscript in an attic and within the manuscript was a letter and in the letter…I don’t want to work that hard. Trunks and attics should be labeled with Louis Carol, Alice in Wonderland-type “Drink Me,” “Eat Me” tags that simply say, “Plot Device.”
2. Spanning. Whether spanning generations or war torn third world countries, I hate to see book descriptions that begin with “spanning.” In full disclosure, I occasionally read a novel that spans, but there is something about the use of that term in a synopsis that exhausts me before I even begin. It makes every book sound like Anna Karenina and not in a good way. The church I go to has something called the Easter vigil. Although use of the word “vigil” should have been an extremely obvious clue, the first time I went to it I had no idea what to expect. It began in total darkness at five o’clock in the morning and the first words from the pulpit were, “In the beginning.” Knowing that (it being Easter and all) Jesus had to die then rise sometime before noon and in the New Testament, and that the first sentence in the Old Testament of the bible is, “In the beginning…” I thought, “Holy shit, I’m going to be here forever!” That’s how “spanning” feels.
3. Numbers and other indications of this book being part of a series. If I see something that says, Jenny and the Baseball Team (Teen Whore Trilogy #2) I feel pressure. I feel an obligation to read the first novel in the Teen Whore Trilogy before I read this one and then I feel the pressure of the third novel hanging over me. Suddenly I’m not reading for pleasure but I’m stuck back in school taking some horrible Teen Whore Literature class that I can’t get out of. Starting with Book #2, I’m the new kid who starts school in October—not so far into the year that I couldn’t blend, but having missed the first month would always be a step behind. And what if I like the series and I’m stuck waiting for months and years for the next installment. Hell, I’ve already got “Downton Abbey” for that.
I read some fantastic books during my vacation and have many more loaded up on my Kindle and ready to go. Don’t tell anyone but perhaps there was even a bit of “spanning” involved.