Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Fiction Elimination Tournament – Round 1: The First Four Books

Just because a book gets eliminated in the first round doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad book or that it is poorly written.  It just means that the book didn't grab my attention for whatever reason or it just wasn't for me.  You'll occasionally hear an agent say something along those lines.  "Good book, but I'm just not into it."

Evaluating writing, anyone's writing, is always subjective. Every reader will bring unique life experiences, preferences, and personal biases to the pages.  For example: Charles Dickens is considered to be one of the greatest writers of all time.  Many read and love each and every one of his works.  I find them too long, overwritten, and boring.  I can get the essence of any of his books through Cliffs Notes, because I simply cannot read one of them without a collegiate dictionary sitting right next to it.  This spoils the "suspension of disbelief" for me when I'm reading.

Layover - Lisa Zeidner (1999)
I've never heard of this writer before, but it has many positive critical comments on the front and back cover and on the first few inside pages. The back cover copy suggests a great deal of conflict. The first five pages present the protagonist Claire as likable. We learn right away that her child has died and through her actions can see that she is still grieving. These are little actions such as lying about having a grown son, staying extra days in hotel rooms without being charged, and avoiding calls from her philandering husband. This reaction feels realistic, the conflict has been established and I want to continue reading. This one goes on to round two.

Farm Fatale – Wendy Holden (2001)
What was I thinking on this one? Boring cover, sort of intriguing back cover copy, but that is it. The first five pages sets up the trite premise. Girl tired of living in city. Boy likes living in city. Girl tries to convince boy to live in country. Conflict and hilarity will ensue. The problem is I don't care. It's not enough to keep me reading. This one is eliminated.

About the Author – John Colapinto (2001)
The narrator is a wannabe writer, but seems to be coming up with every excuse not to write. Because of the back cover copy, you can conclude that his roommate is writing about the narrator’s exploits in the party world. The narrator brings home a girl who is a palm reader for a one night stand and she determines that he is going to come into a lot of money very soon, and at the end of the five pages the roommate’s laptop has been stolen. The narrative voice is interesting even though the narrator is somewhat unlikable, but you want to know more. This goes on to the next round.

21 – Jeremy Iversen (2005)
Dude. The story starts out with frat boys getting wasted for the protagonist, Brad's, 21st birthday. This is a set up for the requisite party scene and the dialogue is pretty boring. The first five pages doesn't allow me to care about what happens to the character. And that is the most important thing you have to do in the first five pages: Make the reader care. Maybe this is just slow starter, but unless there are a lot of other crappy books in this pile, I think this one is eliminated… Bro.

Books Eliminated So Far (and available if you want them):
  • 21 – Jeremy Iversen (2005) 
  • Farm Fatale – Wendy Holden (2001)

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