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Old 11-30-2012, 06:27 PM   #1
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When Authors should LEM their own characters

"LEM" - Tossing a book over a cliff into the ocean like a lemming.

I have been struggling recently. For the first time in my life I am reading favorite authors or series and finding myself kind of disgusted by the recent novels. The characters are no longer interesting, the plots have holes you can drive a truck through, the scenes no longer paint pictures for me and the grammar and wording have taken a nose dive.

It's like the publishing houses no longer use copy-editors and give feedback to successful authors to polish up rough spots or fix problems.

I have been worried I was simply becoming a grumpy old man and 'new stuff ain't as good as the old'! Now I suspect the authors are getting tired of their characters, but are cranking out books to satisfy contracts.

Does anybody else feel the same?

I am going to put my specific examples in Spoiler tags because I do not want to influence anybody away from authors or series that started out very, very strong and should be read. Add your own examples and lets see if we sync up on series that have gone on too long.

Spoiler:
Kathy Reichs - The most recent book "Bones are Forever" have the main characters being petty and mean to each other. Then she brings in more tension by bringing in a disgusting third party who had a one-night-stand with Temperance. By the end of the book I really did not care what happened to the main characters.

Glen Cook - The "Garrett PI" series is a fascinating mix of Tolkien and Sam Spade in a gritty, mulit-culture city. This former marine goes up against the mafia, trolls and magic wielders over about 10 books. But the most recent book had our hero jumping at noises over the impending break up with his long time girl friend as a major drama point. It just feels ... old and like Glen has run out of ideas. His early books did a lot of descriptions and painted a good picture of the snarky detective as he interacts with the characters. The latest book describes the scenes in a terse, factual style with little of the charm or whit of his earlier books.

James Patterson and Maxine Paetro - In the recent "10th Anniversay" Womens Murder club there is a chapter when the tough detective goes and has a cry over a missing newborn. But at this point in the plot we know the baby was not left in the woods but given over to someone found through a "Craigslist" type website. The scene was out of order. Later in the book a small town desk clerk helps the detective with information, then pulls out his badge (he's the local sheriff) and then shuts up saying he may have told them too-much. Then he apparently tips off the suspects, then he arrives with 3 squad cars to help rescue the detectives. Its just several of dozens of inconsistencies throughout the book.

In the "11th Hour" - a housekeeper has reported finding human heads and is visibly shaken and the Detective notices she is about to 'loose' this witness. So she yells at the woman that she had better start telling the truth. (That's how I would calm down a witness - NOT).

The only thing in these books that is well described - is the food at the restaurants. I suspect this is so Maxine can dine out - but write off the food bills as research expenses. It's the only thing that adds color to the books.

It's like they take plot points on cards, shake them up and hand them to a room full of monkeys who each crank out 1 loosely connected chapter. Then they are sewn together and perhaps 1 person sprinkles in some color in a few spots and ships it off. Nobody at "Hachette Book Group" is proof reading or if they are - they are too afraid of Patterson to point out the obvious flaws.

Piers Anthony - I liked the "Xanth" series even if the world was based on puns. The "tangle trees" came from his weeping willow trees in his yard, the "dragon" is based on a train that runs behind his farm, etc. It was charming, funny, poked fun at things and even included fun references to sex. I have not kept up with the series, but I picked up "Jumper Cable", the 33rd novel in the series. It was dull, dried out with none of the wit or character development. Characters from earlier books show up, mouth a few lines then disappear. The sex references are gratuitous and look forced into the novel - like someone sprinkled them in later to add 'spice'. It just does not have the charm it used to. NOTE: I just spotted the reviews on Amazon - I am not alone in feeling the series has gone down-hill.

For full disclosure: I read Kathy Reichs and Glen cook on my Kindle in the evening in bed. The Patterson books were audiobooks which I listened to during my commute - which I admit I absorb differently and traffic could influence my mood. But the last 2 days traffic has been horrible, it has been raining but I am enjoying "The Fallen Angel" by Daniel Silva. So I do not think it is a 'read' vs 'hear' issue.


Anybody else want to contribute series that seem to have gone downhill?
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:00 PM   #2
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P.S. You could read some Haruki Murakami, for a change of pace.
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:06 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FatDog View Post
It's like the publishing houses no longer use copy-editors and give feedback to successful authors to polish up rough spots or fix problems.
I think the issue is the reverse.
When the author becomes successful enough, they no longer have to listen to feedback from their editors. Unlike first-time authors, they know that the publishing house won't turn the book down, because it will sell on their name alone. This is also why in a series of books, the length of a book strictly increases as the series progresses, the author allows less and less cuts to be made.
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Old 11-30-2012, 07:41 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FatDog View Post
"LEM" - Tossing a book over a cliff into the ocean like a lemming.
The phrase you are looking for is The Eight Deadly Words:

"I don't care what happens to these people."

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.ph...ghtDeadlyWords
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Old 11-30-2012, 11:27 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by murraypaul View Post
I think the issue is the reverse.
When the author becomes successful enough, they no longer have to listen to feedback from their editors. Unlike first-time authors, they know that the publishing house won't turn the book down, because it will sell on their name alone. This is also why in a series of books, the length of a book strictly increases as the series progresses, the author allows less and less cuts to be made.
I couldn't agree more.
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Old 12-01-2012, 10:14 PM   #6
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I think that authors want people to enjoy their books. For people new to a particular author the latest book is their best advertisement as to the value of the rest of their books.

Sure every one has their ups and downs, but I doubt any successful author with quite a few back list books still being sold would deliberately slack off, thinking perhaps that everyone in the world had already read all the others and hoping to make another million or so on their reputation alone, while possibly ruining said reputation.

Just doesn't make sense.

Perhaps when an author becomes successful enough they don't have to listen to feedback from their editors. Perhaps the editors offer less. Why wouldn't an author listen to feedback? Are we suggesting that authors who have been supplying us with enjoyable reading for a short or long time are turning into egocentric psycopaths who now delight in selling us crap.

Sorry I just don't see it.

Helen
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Old 12-02-2012, 04:16 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by speakingtohe View Post

Perhaps when an author becomes successful enough they don't have to listen to feedback from their editors. Perhaps the editors offer less. Why wouldn't an author listen to feedback? Are we suggesting that authors who have been supplying us with enjoyable reading for a short or long time are turning into egocentric psycopaths who now delight in selling us crap.

Sorry I just don't see it.

Helen
A big ego does not require psychopathy. It isn't hard to lose perspective.

"I'm the mega-super-hot-selling author. I'm the golden goose. Are people lining up by the millions to buy your books, Editorio? How dare you mess with my vision! How dare you cut up my baby!"

"I've written 37 books. I know what I'm doing. Leave me alone."

I doubt that they delight in selling crap. They probably assume that they are incapable of producing crap.
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Old 12-02-2012, 05:26 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taustin View Post
The phrase you are looking for is The Eight Deadly Words:

"I don't care what happens to these people."

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.ph...ghtDeadlyWords
Never heard the term "LEM" so had to open the thread to see wtf it was about.

taustin is right.
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Old 12-02-2012, 05:52 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
taustin is right.
Yep. As is murraypaul.

Plus, OP... it could be your tastes are evolving. Maybe you just don't like franchise characters/premises anymore. Try some stand-alones.
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:00 AM   #10
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Publishers are depending more on marketing than good writing these days.
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:15 AM   #11
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I dunno, I think it's more the Stephen King syndrome, as I call it. Basically, at a certain point in their career, authors just ignore what people want and do what they want, which is often meandering and meh. (George Lucas did the same with Star Wars).

Cook has been doing that for quite some time now with the Garrett series. Gotten almost like a soap opera.

With that said, Piers Anthony always puts in sex stuff in his novels. The Xanth series had less, but still some creepiness involved (like taking character names from one of de Sade's books, which is one of those books I wish I could erase from my memory)
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Old 12-02-2012, 01:12 PM   #12
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I wonder if a lot of this isn't because some writers are really no longer inspired about their stories, but are banging them out just because there is a strong market for them. I get the feeling that the best stories are those that come from the subconscious (or muse, in the old days), and that the writer more or less documents them. Stories that are consciously put together often seem to lack that magic feel that entrances readers.

There's that old quip about musicians who "Only had that one song in them". Without the muse, the creation lacks life.

Last edited by rkomar; 12-02-2012 at 01:14 PM.
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Old 12-02-2012, 03:00 PM   #13
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I've been disappointed in two formerly favorite authors, but can't seem to resist reading each new book since I've already read all the earlier ones. Now I get them from the library, though.
Spoiler:
Janet Evanovich & Charlaine Harris


Some authors never disappoint. Although I enjoy some of their books more than others, Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke are consistently masters of their craft.

Since I read a lot (173 books so far this year), most of my choices are by less exalted but wonderfully talented writers. I accept work for which I lack enthusiasm if, overall, their books are good.
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Old 12-02-2012, 03:02 PM   #14
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I've given up on both your spoilered authors, quite some time ago.
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:01 PM   #15
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