Cheap Writing

I’m reading a book by an author I can generally tolerate despite his obviously manipulative style, but this particular book irritated me from the first page.

One of the characters is a teenager. And like almost all teenagers in adult books, this one is rebellious, insolent, arrogant, and downright nasty. And those are her good qualities. Well, her only qualities.

Since this author is so manipulative, it’s possible he chose the character as one who would be, with only a few strokes of his keyboard, instantly recognizable to his readership, but if so, why? Why do so many teenagers in books have to be like this? The character has ruined more stories for me than even the serial killers who so lovingly demonstrate every single cut and cherish every single drop of blood. It’s as if no one will believe that a teenager can be other than appalling, especially since the parent’s inability to deal with the inexcusable behavior often serves as a subplot. If the teenager is as nice as many I have met (and as placid as I once was), then bang, there goes that subplot, and the author would have to think of another one.

It’s also a cheap subplot (sometimes even the entire plot) because the more terrible you make the teenager, the more obvious the character arc when the kid grows up. Whatever happened to subltety?

I suppose, since this author tends to play with such archetypes rather than breathing life into a creature of his own, it makes sense he’d build a story on such a flimsy pretext. Unfortunately, as bad as things are at the beginning of the book, things promise to get a whole lot worse by the end. Assuming, of course, I stay to the end. I might consign the kid to the fires of unreadable books long before it gets to that point.

What I would really like to see is the opposite (and occasionally, an author does present such a change) where the parent is rebellious (without being abusive) and the teenager has to deal with the moodiness. Or even better — no teenagers at all.

I used to read young adult books way into my adulthood because I enjoyed the theme of a misfit standing up to the world and its conventions, finding a fit, and becoming their own person, but I seldom come across such a storyline any more. (That also used to be plot of the Regency romances I read in my youth — the main character was always a societal misfit who ended up finding a fit. But that storyline has been suffocated under the current fad for stories that skirt the edges of porn.)

Obviously, I can’t do anything about books with horrid teenagers except not read them, and if I had time to go to the library, or if I had other book to read, I wouldn’t give this one another minute of my time.

What I can do, though, is eschew such cheapness and triteness in my own writing.

And yes, I will write another novel one day.



Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Depth of Character

Sherilyn Winrose, author of Safe Harbor published by Second Wind Publishing, speaks about depth of character:

There are a few things which will make me stop from reading a story.

Cookie cutter, cliché characters is one of them. Or characters who lie flat on the pages like paper dolls.

There is one author I just don’t read anymore, because her characters repeat, repeat, repeat. I gave up on any hope of some miracle of original characters with her. She’s popular and vastly successful in the publishing world. Three pen names last I heard, all of them have best sellers. We should all be so lucky. All the same, she lost me for lack of originality in her characters.

When I approach a story, generally the characters come to me first. I write romance, so there are some things my Hero must have. Momma’s boys, short, no morals, weak of will or ego-driven men need not apply.

Heroine – Pretty much up to the author. I personally refuse to give voice to damsels in distress, clingy, needy types, martyrs, and drama queens.  Heaven save me from weak women!

For supporting characters the sky’s the limit so to speak. I have a lot of fun with my supporting characters.

The ‘complications’ or skills my characters have dictates the amount of research required to make them real.  Some of the complications/skills I have, so it comes pretty easy.  Other times they come to me with things I know nothing about.

How do you bake biscuits in a camp fire?  What would it be like to have the hopes of many rest on your shoulders?  How many miles can two riders and a pack animal travel in the Sierra Nevada?

All of these things add depth and reality to characters.  If your heroin loves and grows roses, please don’t tell me she has a miniature rose growing over an 8 ft arbor..that ain’t gonna happen, and she should know that.

How do you approach your characters, their quirks, skills and inner being? Do you get lost in research? Or find not much is required?