Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 117

Today's word is "accessibility."

As writers, we need to understand it especially if we're writing commercial fiction. It's not to say we must dumb down our work to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Certainly, there is difficult literature that gained traction even though it's not accessible, but usually they were not "commercial," at least not during the time of first publication.

Currently, I'm reading an award-winning novel by a superb writer. It's taken me months to read this piece of work and not because it wasn't well-written. In fact, I often stop and marvel at the author's word choices and the way she constructed her sentences. They are scrumptious. But the novel itself is an empty experience, in many ways. I don't particularly like the protagonist: I find him annoying, whiny, petty, cowardice and passive.

The biggest problem is that the plot is sketchy. After reading more than 200 pages, I still am not sure what the plot is. Yes, I know what the story is, and it's an intimate one. I have no problems with intimate, personal stories. But I still need a plot to move me forward. Often, I find myself stop reading without any urge to continue, because I know for the next 50 pages, nothing is going to happen either. Basically, the plot moves forward every 60 pages or so, with plenty of beautiful writing in between.

Now, I do appreciate gorgeous writing. I adore prose writers such as John Irving, Michael Chabon and Ian McEwan. Still, when I read a work of fiction, I want to feel I'm addicted to the plot and characters. I want to feel like I'm part of that world, that I really know these people. That I can't wait to see what happens to these people.

Accessibility.

With this novel I'm currently reading, I don't feel any of that. I'm apathetic. I have no interest where the story is going. I have no interest about these characters. I don't really care what happens to them.

And the reviews I've read so far confirmed that I'm not the only one. Most readers commented on how well-written the prose was. They also said, by and large, it was a slow-moving book, that readers had to take their time, savor it like a hot cup of tea.

I don't mind reading slowly and savoring the prose, but still there has to be something to egg me on, to pique my interest and to hook me enough to turn the pages. I shouldn't have to feel like it's an obligation, simply because I've started reading it, just to finish. I should be able to feel the emotions my characters are feeling, or at least empathize with them. I should be surprised. I should look forward to spending another day with them.

Accessibility.

500 words, 36500 words total
248 days and 149000 words to go

3 comments:

ORION said...

yep! Right on!!

Melanie Avila said...

You mean you aren't going to tell us which book? ;)

I think accessibility IS important and there's a fine line between dumbing down your writing -- which I refuse to do -- and making things so abstract that no one enjoys reading the story.

I'm currently stuck on ONE phrase in my wip that I think is overly subtle. I like being subtle, I like making the reader think for themselves, but two out of two people have said I should male it a little clearer, so I'm considering.

Ray Wong said...

Sometimes you also have to consider if your readers don't get it, is it a big deal? But would it be a GREAT deal if the readers do get it? That's how I tend to draw the line as far as subtexts, symbolism, subtlety, etc. are concerned.