Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's the little things that drive me nuts

In the last couple of months I've finished two novels whose ending drove me a little nuts.  Well, that's not quite true - one element of their ending drove me nuts.  The element where the author conveniently forgot their own plotting.  I don't want to do spoilers, so I won't name them.  Let's call them Book One and Book Two.  In Book One a cop who has a standard issue gun, and carries it at all times, suddenly forgets she has it with her and ends up in hand to hand combat as she tries to escape.  How do you suddenly forget that you have a weapon that's a little more potent than your hands?  In Book Two a private investigator disarms a man, taking his gun.  Moments later, when the disarmed man's buddies show up, the PI runs for the kitchen to find a knife!  A lo and behold he's taken prisoner until his own buddies show up to rescue him.  If three guys turn up wielding guns, why forget about the gun you've just confiscated in the hope that a knife will deflect the bullets?  I'm all for artistic license, and I'm happy to suspend my disbelief when required, but I find that pretty difficult if the story is realist fiction and the plot device is plain daft.  These scenes added to the suspense and tension in the story, but sometimes the little things just drive me nuts!

6 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - I know exactly what you mean! I get annoyed, too, when those little details are all wrong realistically. That's one of my pet peeves, too.

Deb said...

I think it's lazy writing when something happens (or doesn't happen) just because it would be more convenient to the plot. Incidents and events have to rise organically from the characters' essential personalities. If a cop never forgets his gun, then he never forgets his gun. Don't make him forget his gun just to bring about a plot point; have something (plausable) happen that removes the gun from the cop's reach.

Like you, I won't name names, but I recently tried a book by a relatively young crime writer who has received a lot positive reviews, but I had to give up halfway through because the characters were so inconsistent. They did things simply because it needed to happen a particular way in service of the plot, I couldn't get a handle on what the characters were really like and I just had to give up.

Dorte H said...

I agree that a writer ought to remember a gun. I just discovered, however, that I sent my protagonist´s mother out for lunch in a scene, and twenty lines further down I let her speak again. Perhaps not a major error, but I prefer discovering them myself.

seana said...

It's theoretically why editors exist, though, isn't it? Or at least it used to be the case.

Rob Kitchin said...

Yes, suprised an editor or beta readers didn't pick these instances up, though perhaps they were happy with the dramatic tension. I'm sure these kinds of mistakes/plotting are easy to do, as Dorte says, and I'm sure I do them, but the book would be fractionally better if they were picked up and I'd be less grumpy!

kathy d. said...

Yes, editors are supposed to do this and if they don't, copyeditors or proofreaders should notice also. That's also why a number of people should read a book before it's in final stages.

What sometimes drives me crazy is time sequences. Sometimes they just don't make sense, the time a detective leaves the house, then does several errands, driving all over, then has an appointment a few hours later quite far away. If one adds up the times, it doesn't jibe. I see this a lot.