The Necessity of Describing Characters

Toby Frost

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However, as an aside, can we please be less personal in our responses to each other

One of the reasons I like this site so much is that it isn't cluttered up with edgelords trying to "have a grown-up discussion", ie an argument, like a lot of the rest of the internet.

Regarding miserable books like London Fields, I think there's a sort of sincerity that a book has to have to be really good (among other things). London Fields felt like a miserable man showing off his cleverness to me. It's the reason why The First Law trilogy doesn't quite work for me (although it is very good): its cynicism feels like a pose rather than anything sincere. This is weird, given that PG Wodehouse comedies feel sincere to me, despite them being completely silly. And The First Law works perfectly for a lot of people.

It sets up kind of personalized, bifurcated hierarchy/flow chart

Is it more the case that a book has to clear some low requirements in terms of basic writing skill, and then it quickly gets pretty subjective? I think it's very hard to pin down what works in that subconscious way, unless you're writing in a field where readers know what they like and say it a lot (friends to lovers in romance etc). But if you do get those basics covered, you can know pretty much for sure that you're not writing rubbish.
 

Christine Wheelwright

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In defence of Amis, his earlier works (Money, Success, The Rachel Papers) were superb. There is a fine tradition of great writers producing more difficult, more experimental, perhaps less popular works once their reputation is established. I'm currently reading Red Shift by Alan Garner. I don't think it would have been published as a first novel, with its blurry narrative and unattributed dialogue.
 

ColGray

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London Fields felt like a miserable man showing off his cleverness to me.
You succinctly and rather perfectly captured my feelings on the two Amis books I've read (London Fields and Time's Arrow).

And I agree Re: PG Wodehouse but I'd put it in the same category as, say, a Terry Prachett: they're authentically silly while having something to say. I'm blanking on the particular Jeeves and Wooster, but the story with the leader of the brown arm-band (Pre WW2 British Fascists) being a firebrand, extolling Good British Working Class Values (tm) who sells high-end lingerie. Wodehouse used silliness to mock and show ridiculousness.

I'm about 60% done with the last book in the First Law trilogy (and not trying to edge lord here) but the books haven't struck me as cynical? All but one character fights against and/or resents and/or questions their nature and understanding of the world. Bayaz, the only who doesn't, is a miserable nincompoop who flies off the handle at any perceived slight. The struggle against cynicism, in a very cynical world, is a major draw. (Happy to move this to the JA forum)
 

Montero

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On description, I've seen excitement about a particular book, where Baba Yaga's house - the one on giant chicken's legs - is inherited by descendants in the USA and shipped there from Russia. Great concept I thought. I tried reading a sample and there was a background bit which was interesting in a way on the subject of where tumbleweed comes from, but not quite to my taste, then the official start of the book was really description dense. Yes it was setting a scene, giving wider impressions of the person and being atmospheric, not just a list of features. But oh, so not my thing. I lasted three paragraphs. It did though start by describing one of the main characters. He was in the middle of being up on the stage at a fairground giving a performance so there was action to it. So good writing craft in theory, I just didn't like the style.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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On description, I've seen excitement about a particular book, where Baba Yaga's house - the one on giant chicken's legs - is inherited by descendants in the USA and shipped there from Russia.
Ah, I recognize the book you are talking about. I read it last year, and even posted a review of it in the review section here.

I did have some difficulty engaging with that book at first—though not because of the style, which I was fine with—but I did end up admiring it very much. It is a difficult book in many ways, so I can easily see how it would not be to everyone's taste for a number of reasons, the style being one of them.
 

Montero

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It is a difficult book in many ways, so I can easily see how it would not be to everyone's taste for a number of reasons, the style being one of them.
Yet it is being talked about and was one of the group reading books on a Goodreads SFF group this month. So, I wonder how they got it noticed. Getting noticed, such a holy grail. Sigh. Being a difficult book to get into, and starts are supposed to be crafted to draw you in, etc....
 

Teresa Edgerton

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So, I wonder how they got it noticed. Getting noticed, such a holy grail. Sigh. Being a difficult book to get into, and starts are supposed to be crafted to draw you in, etc....
I imagine—and the reviews on Amazon would seem to bear this out—that it was the subject matter and the timeliness of the themes that brought it to many people's attention. Timeliness, and timing in general, is the real holy grail in publishing.

And of course what doesn't work for some readers for a beginning may work very well for others. Moreover, it is an admirable book in many ways.
 

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