Friday, January 24, 2014

Writing, Word Count, and Series Writing

I usually never give a negative review. If I don't like a book, I simply move on. (this came from my mother who always said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.") However, the book I've got on my ipod is a bit of a crazy maker.

It's Evanovich's latest Stephanie Plum novel, Takedown Twenty. For those not familiar its about a woman bounty hunter who is in a love triangle between a cop and another bounty hunter. That's the short version. But that "Twenty" in the title stands for the 20th book in the series. Whew! That's not only a lot of books but a lot of work to make each one different and unique. In the beginning these books were very entertaining, funny, and fast paced. Everything I like in a good book. I love the page-turner, keep-me-up-all-night book. This book ain't it. :(

I think one of the main problems in the 20 books is that somewhere along the line the main character, Stephanie Plum, stops growing. She's stuck in this emotional vacuum of tracking bad guys, falling down stairs, getting food/trash thrown at her and bouncing between the two boyfriends. This happens over and over and over in all twenty books. Nothing new, everything predictable. Sadly I can't even bring myself to pay for these books and usually just download them from the library. In the beginning I used to run right out and buy two hardcovers as soon as they came out. One for me and one for my mother in law.

Now I'm in book 20 and really have to wonder if the writer was just trying to make a word count. A few chapters in, the main character stops at a store and then the writer lists about 20 items that she bought including napkins, vegetables, two magazines, blah, blah, blah... As a writer, all I'm thinking is; was she trying to make a word count???  Why does the shopping list need to be in the story? Since it's written in the first person it makes me think of that annoying person you meet who dumps every tiny detail of her life into every conversation.  I want to scream; is there a point to all this blather?

Back to the main plot. Is this twenty something woman ever going to grow up? Change? Don't we all change and grow? Doesn't she want to get better at her job or improve her life in any way? She's an inept bounty hunter, which lends to the comedy aspect, but if she never improves or learns the skills of her job then how is this book any different than the 19 before it? She strings two guys along and they follow like puppies...for 20 books?

I think in every book we look for what happens next. Like in the Hero's Journey we need challenges met and the return of the golden chalice. Without that, what's the point? In Takedown Twenty I felt like I'd already read it. Nineteen times.
Too bad. Evanovich is an awesome writer but somewhere along the line...we lost the fact that its a journey, not a scene.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I haven't read these. I did watch the movie based on the series and it was meh. I think this is one of the hard things about a series. Keeping the joy going. In the early books of the Travis McGee series there was a little growth. Then it leveled off to nothing, then picked up again as he wrote the last books in the series and closed it out.