For years I taught literature to secondary students. Most were reluctant readers so I would teach the elements of a novel or the short story by comparing them to popular TV shows or movies. A sit-com is a three-act play compacted into thirty minutes, so there is a premise, a situation to be solved, and the ending or resolution. A movie is its longer cousin, so we’d discuss a popular movie and separated it into its three acts. Once we did that, we turned our focus on the short story or novel we were reading in class.
We all agreed a good story is a well-written story.
Nothing irks me more than to spend my hard-earned money or waste my precious time on a book that fails to keep its promise to the consumer. If it’s a mystery, I expect to be surprised. If it’s a romance, I expect to see it develop. If it’s an adventure, I expect to raft the rapids. But please do not promise me a date and then take me for a boring ride around the neighborhood.
I hate books that are badly written, badly plotted, or copy other books badly. I hate triteness and cliché. I often wonder how they got published and what Golden Goose they promised the people who gave those books high reviews?
I hate books that ride on the waves created by others and offer nothing new to the genre. Instead of one more dystopian novel where a wholesome, spunky seventeen-year-old saves the world, I’m waiting for the one where a septuagenarian is chosen as the lithest in her yoga class and shows the world courage has no best-if-used-by date.
I hate books whose authors refused to take a creative writing course on editing or on how Show Not Tell manifests itself on paper. A published book should not read like a C-minus, end-of-the-year, high school Creative Writing project.
Lastly, I hate books whose storytelling is so poor no one cares about the character once we are done with the book. One never forgets a well-developed character. Did Rhett Butler ever find a woman who loved him like he deserved? Did Hagrid stay on at Hogwarts? Did Skeeter live to old age? What would they be doing now?