Dialogue, Genre and a Book Beef

Happy New Year, everyone. Hope all of you enjoyed a holiday season blessed with all that make them special at your end. And here’s to peace, health and prosperity to all in 2016!

Please forgive my absence these past months. Last time I mentioned a super-busy start to the school year. Once that settled a little, Younger Son took a rough hit to the knee during the first play of his final Junior Varsity football game. He will be undergoing knee reconstruction in the near future—then the fun really begins, I’m sure. I just keep focusing on the gratitude part: that he will have a stable, functional knee; that he did not sustain a far worse injury, and that we are blessed with fairly easy access to the amazing MDs and support staff at a major world hospital.

So, as highly annoyed as I am with a book I just finished, I’m grateful it has me irritated enough to reach out and grump to my fellow readers and writers. (In other words, it fired me up enough to WANT to write.)

Because I don’t like to negatively target anyone’s work directly, I’ll withhold the author’s name and the book’s title.

A little background, however, I believe will be useful:

Genre: Christian suspense

Characters: likable enough. Definitely had me rooting for them as they progressed through the story journey.

Prose: for the most part, very, very good. I was very pleased with how the author pulled me into her characters’ world, and how it didn’t take long to get me on their side.

Story: convoluted and hard to follow. Set-up felt seemed to take a good two-thirds of the book, with some very far-fetched scenarios once the “action” started.

In fairness, the author included a disclaimer relative to liberties taken. I am also willing to suspend belief very generously, as long as I care for the characters and am interested enough in how they solve the story’s conflict. After all, I willingly chose to invest my time in a work of someone else’s imagination.

Points-of-View: more than I would like, but that didn’t bother me as much as it might have under other circumstances. (I’ve read very famous best sellers where I swear the countertop and floors got POVs. These worked fine with the story’s overall flow.) Most done in third-person limited; hacker/one antagonist presented in first person.

My biggest beef with the book came with the POVs of the male characters. These guys were Green Berets. Christian literature or not, would men who are out there being blasted at, feeling their security shaken at its deepest physical and digital levels be thinking, “Son of a biscuit!”? Seriously? And that a woman reminded him of a word that rhymed with witch?

There are times my inner editor can only take so much. Those “clean-n-milder” versions of swear words and expressions did not wax authentic and messed with me staying in the story. I simply could not picture those rough-n-tough, Alpha-male, military hero-types “thinking” in those terms.

And that brings me to my book beef and a question: as an author, do I adjust my character’s internal and external dialogue to stay within the parameters of a traditional, inspirational publisher? Or do I skip the references to strong, “colorful” verbiage, and let subtext and/or the reader fill in the blanks? As a reader, do you care?

I’d love your feedback! Thanks for taking the time to be here!

Be well,

Joanna

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6 thoughts on “Dialogue, Genre and a Book Beef

  1. “I’ve read very famous best sellers where I swear the countertop and floors got POVs.”—Haha! Loved that line.

    As for your question, I guess if a writer has a specific publisher in mind and knows that publisher has certain limits, then I would stick to what they want. If I was going to shop a book around and not limit myself to inspirational publishers (or whatever the case may be), then I wouldn’t restrain myself so much. I’d write within my own comfort levels.

    So sorry to hear about your son. 😦 Hope his recovery goes well.

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    1. Thanks, Carrie. I get the part about writing within parameters, but I wonder if the power of omission and the ability of a reader to “fill in” those blanks would be enough to create the authenticity I felt lacked in POV in this particular book.

      Tomorrow we see the peripheral nerve and orthopedic surgeons, along with an orthotist. Hey, we might even leave with a surgery date. Thanks again!

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  2. I hope your son recovers quickly. As for your question, I would write authentic characters and the right publisher will come. Unless your voice and that of your characters is an exact fit for a publisher, I wouldn’t try to change who you are to suit someone else. It won’t ring true on the page.

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    1. Thanx, Stacey. He’s been a tremendous trooper so far. God willing, he’ll do better than we hope. 🙂

      IDKY I get so irritated by stuff like this. I’ve been known to bend or ignore “rules” that I don’t agree with, and maybe when those boundaries mess with me being authentic. In cases like this, I have to wonder about editing, too. In the next book of the series, the author made some random reference to FROZEN (the animated Disney movie), in one of the POVs! Seriously?????? Can’t remember right now, but I’m hoping it wasn’t the male lead character, lol. Talk about not ringing true on the page!

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  3. Hope all goes well for your son. A kid in pain is the worst, I think.

    As for the question, I have one for you. Were the Berets supposed to be Christians or was it author intrusion making them think like that?

    If they were Christians then I’d have to ask my cousin, a devout Christian and former soldier in Iraq, who saw a LOT of hell over there, what went through his mind when his camp was under sniper fire. Or when he had to stare the enemy in the eye as he was forced to shoot one. If it was author intrusion I’d probably want to remind her that Christian belief is that thinking a sin is the same as committing one. If the soldier ‘thought’ of a woman rhyming with witch, it’s the same as just calling her one.

    And then there are the publisher parameters to consider, as mentioned by Carrie.

    Happy New Year!

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    1. Hey Calisa! So nice to see you here and thanks so much for your recent help. Much appreciated!

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to your comment. Sometimes it’s easier to do so on my laptop; mobile devices get me a little crazy every now and then.

      Thank you for your good wishes. Fortunately, my son is not in physical pain–at least not since the day he got hit. After surgery might be a different story, but we’ll just stay in the day for now. I keep praying that foot motion comes back on its own.

      No, the Berets were not Christians. I’ll assume publisher parameters had to be considered, but in cases like that I much prefer leaving that stuff out. (Just finished the third book in the series and the author did it a lot less. Maybe feedback came back to her?)

      I also kept asking myself where the editor was. Honestly, this author intruded in more than one place too. Loved her characters, though, especially the Berets. Awesome alpha males, lol. Plot? So convoluted I just couldn’t follow it.

      Happy New Year to you too!

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