Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Feel Like I've Read This Somewhere Before....

I’ve gotten the chance to do a lot of reading lately (a big YAY to that). While most of the stories have been wonderful, a couple have fallen into one of my biggest literary pet peeves.

Too much repetition.

Conflict is the heart and soul of any story. There’s something that must be dealt with for the protagonist to make it to that possibly happily ever after. And whatever that something is? The protagonist wants nothing to do with it.

And that’s great. Particularly when there’s a compelling reason for the protagonist to want to maintain distance – something more interesting that “Cause I don’t wanna!” But no matter how fantastic and understandable a reason the protagonist is given, I still don’t want to read it two hundred times in two hundred and fifty pages.

Say, for instance, there’s a girl whose hardworking father is employed by county’s Public Works Sewer Utility Division. Well, come “Take Your Daughter” to work day, she dons her goulashes and descends into the caverns below. And who does she meet, but a wounded ammit, begging for help to get back home. Despite being a peaceable sort, the girl’s first instinct is to chop the ammit’s head right off. After all, her mother’s heart had been consumed by an ammit, damning her spirit to an eternity of restlessness. Now, she haunts her daughter while increasingly going more insane.

Awesome. I’m totally on board with the reason this girl wants nothing to kill this creature. However, a good story is going to have a reason why she ends up helping the ammit. Such as saving her mother’s soul. And so the story continues.

Now, I’d want to see that the girl was conflicted. That she didn’t trust the damn ammit. That she has to hide her journey from her father who will, without hesitation, chop the thing in two. And all of this will stem from what happened to her mother.

But what happened to her mother is not the story.

This is about what’s happening to this girl.

So, the mother’s plight can color things, but sweet heavens, I do not want to see restated in every chapter. Mom’s had a rough time. Daughter’s a little touchy because of it.

I get it.

When I see back story like this showing up with an absurd frequency it makes me wonder if the person telling the story doesn’t seriously underestimate the intelligence of the person reading. Don’t get me wrong, I like these windows into the character’s motivations, but at least spread it out a little. My memory can take it.

First tell us that the mom had her heart eaten.

Later, maybe a bit on her going insane.

Down the line, the reason that the ammit judged her heart to be impure in the first place.

If it’s going to be a constant throughout the story, tell me a little bit at a time. Don’t tell me all at once in the first chapter and then rehash it again and again and again.

So, that’s one of my pet peeves when it comes to stories. Let’s hear one of yours.

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