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Author Topic: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?  (Read 6519 times)

Offline ScarletBea

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Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« on: March 20, 2016, 11:01:53 AM »
I've been wondering if we're getting too picky, and I've reached the conclusion that most of the time we create our own dissatisfaction with a book by reading 'too much'.

I know that some books I loved when I first read them several years ago now seem a bit 'samey' and derivative - but that's only because I've read so much fantasy since then.
We talk about cliches and basic plots and genres, and within this group we're always looking for the 'next big thing', the 'different one', the 'novelty', complaining about certain new books whose stories "we've read in one form or another several times". But isn't that simply the requirements of a niche group? Can there be a market for these books/stories, for those people who are discovering fantasy now?
Or is the proportion of 'newbies' vs. 'oldies' so small that truly a new launch must be really new to be successful?

I feel I have a higher tolerance for 'samey' stories than a few here, if the writing is good, but I still notice myself comparing plot devices and twists to other books I've read.
Would it be better not to be so picky?
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Offline Rostum

Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2016, 11:52:28 AM »
I know picky readers some of them dont read 5 books a year. I would say if you are reading 40-50 you probably are not being too picky. Quality is alway appreciated, I find books that leave me in awe of the writers because the prose is good and the story is fantastic and others I plough through because despite the writing not being so good the story is interesting enough or the ideas and world building do enough to keep me reading.
Then I reset my reference point and read a zombie book.
After that you can appreciate the blood sweat and tears that go into pretty much everything else.

Offline Eclipse

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Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2016, 01:13:42 PM »
I'm not Picky! ;D
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Offline Nora

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Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2016, 01:33:11 PM »
I'm picky in my themes, and I'm picky in the sense that I very easily put a book down if it refuses to catch my attention properly.

It's not like we only ever read Fantasy or Sci fi either. As far as I'm concerned, I read old or modern fiction novels, non-fiction, classics, a lot of manga/french comics, ect. In the genre itself, there are obviously some limits if you keep in the normal field with the regular actors, but quite a few authors refresh the genre with novel things.

I personally don't feel like I struggle to find good stuff to read. Then whenever I feel like I should return to a classic I always re-read Pride and Prejudice.
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Offline night_wrtr

Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2016, 01:35:08 PM »
I think it comes down to the writing itself. That is what I get picky with. It could be a common plot, but in the hands of a creative and thoughtful wordsmith, I still enjoy it.

But samey stories with samey voice and samey settings don't lure me back. I'll look elsewhere.

Offline Arry

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Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2016, 02:44:28 PM »
I think you can read a lot and read in genre and keep variety. I suspect if you feel that way, instead of reading less, vary it up a bit more. And obviously if you really enjoy a type of book, and still enjoy then it's not a problem, you see the patterns as familiar old friends rather than being an issue.

And of course, all of this relies on things being well written, because as @night_wrtr pointed out, if something is not well done, then it will fail no matter what.
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Offline JMack

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Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2016, 04:08:40 PM »
Maybe that happens.
But I know for myself that there's a minimum for me to enjoy a book:

1. competent prose. Doesn't have to be brilliant, but if the grammar is off or the prose is convoluted (as opposed to old-fashioned - which I can deal with nicely, thank you) I get so bothered I can't enjoy the story.

2. realistic human reactions.

3. fun!

4. not depressing.

Luckily, most of what gets published meets these. Unfortunately, I run into quite the mix in self-pub books.
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Offline Yora

Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2016, 04:29:31 PM »
I can't rush through a new book every week. At such speeds I feel like it would all blur together and when reading 100 pages in a day there's no time to really think about the story and the characters. If a cast of characters and a world is discarded after a month and never to be revisited unless I read the same books again, it's hard to get an attachment for them.

I have pretty small collections of books, movies, and videogames for that reason. Finding something really good and new is great, but I rather go back to something I already like than to pick up something just for the sake of having something new. Even if I already know how it ends.

Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2016, 04:43:14 PM »
Well, I have my picky moments, like two weeks ago. That was terrible.
I don't really enjoy other genres outside of Fantasy or Si-fi. I used to read a lot of mystery and detective novels, and the thrillers and stuff, and I just didn't enjoy them. I see enough problems with our modern world on the news. I don't feel like I have to read about it.
So, as long as I switch it up in Fantasy, I'm okay. there's so many different types of stories and worlds that it helps to keep things fresh. I think that's why I love this genre so much. There's always a new world to explore, a new magic system, new governments, etc. As long as the story keeps me engaged, I'm in.

Offline magisensei

Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2016, 04:58:56 PM »
I read a lot but for me each book/series is a unique voyage into a new world.  That is not to say that some worlds are quite lacking in some of the things that could make it that much more engaging for me to visit their world. 

Let's take the urban fantasy genre as an example - I read a lot of UF - and the basic requirement is somewhat similar - its based in this world and is mostly recognizable, magic in some form is available - either in terms of actual magic or in the characters (ie vampires, werewolves, whatever monster you like), action, bad guys (big or small) and some romance perhaps.   But each of the UF I read are unique - and yes some are much better in terms of characters, world-building (yes, even UF has world-building), plot, structure of the story, writing etc.  When I read a series that could potentially be much better than what it is - it is for me a bit sad - things like bad plotting, horrible character development, 100s year vampires/werewolves acting like teens, unbelievable romance (ie why would you fall for that person), characters too stupid to see what is in front of their face, unbelievable coincidences, overly powerful characters; badly written love scenes that really have no place in the story etc - really makes sigh in sadness - it could be so much better but its not - and so I drop the series usually after reading a few books in a given series - with the hope it gets better - most do not.

 Is this pickiness? Somewhat - but its a pickiness for a story that can transport me to another world - suspend my disbelief; have a minimum of good writing and editing; when I question things or say that is just too stupid or unbelievable that it ruins the narration - it really annoys me and so I move on to another book/series. 

I think new novels need to be well written and plotted with interesting and engaging characters and worlds.  Do they have to be the newest unique thing - no - but it needs to engage the reader.  Even if the novel uses some cliches and re-hashes old ideas as long as the writing is solid and the story engages us (requiring of course good writing, world building, characters etc) then the likelihood of it doing well is much better and readers will enjoy it even it is familiar in some way. 

For example, role-playing game (RPG) novel - such as Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Pathfinder etc - are all structurally similar in terms of stories - but readers still enjoy these worlds and the niche that they have in the fantasy genre. 

I think when writers try to be overly new and inventive in their writing in terms of stories, world-building, shock-value (lots of violence or it is just weird in someway), or structure of the story (e.g. multiple narrators etc) then the book will either be a hit or a clear miss (and/or something in between - but if its just so-so - the publisher might not ask for the next book).  I think all genres need some of kind of new blood to its genre but the "same-old thing" still sells and attracts readers - because it is proven to sell and to attract readers. 

For example: a certain romance publisher even has guidelines for their books - so it all fits nicely together - so the writer cannot really deviate too much from what is acceptable for their type of book.  Sameness still sells it just requires a little difference in terms of plot development and characters for each new novel - when you pick up a certain romance publishers novel - you know that in the end it will be happily ever after. 

For fantasy -sameness can sell and does probably quite well.  As a reader, I enjoy familiar worlds - like RPG novels - or Sword and Sorcery /adventure novels - reading for me is not really about the latest novelty (although that is nice as well) it is about being drawn into a world and being entertained. 

Novelty can be entertaining but a well written fantasy with the familiar also has a lot of charm.  For me, as long as it is well written without some of my pet peeves when I read then I will enjoy regardless if it is familiar or a novelty.   



Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2016, 05:08:27 PM »
Thanks for all your replies - I think you covered a lot of my misgivings :)

And
Finding something really good and new is great, but I rather go back to something I already like than to pick up something just for the sake of having something new. Even if I already know how it ends.
I think I might do this more this year, re-reading. Every year I say I will, and end up just doing it for one trilogy, always trying to read this and that 'really good book' that someone mentioned here, hehe. Stop and go back to the ones I loved, and discover new things there...
« Last Edit: March 20, 2016, 05:10:11 PM by ScarletBea »
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Offline DrNefario

Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2016, 07:58:29 PM »
If the cure is to read less, I don't want to know. :)

In all honesty, I think part of being a fantasy fan is wanting to read the same kinds of stories over and over. We like them. It's nice for them to have some good new characters and an interesting background. It's sometimes refreshing if a book does something a bit different. But in the end a good example of classic themes can still be enjoyable.

That said, I do like to mix a fair amount of non-genre reading into my diet. I've been a bit worried that the only non-SF/F books I've read so far this year have been a couple of Agatha Christies, but I am about to start a motorcycle racing autobiography.

Offline Yora

Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2016, 08:53:50 PM »
Finding something really good and new is great, but I rather go back to something I already like than to pick up something just for the sake of having something new. Even if I already know how it ends.
I think I might do this more this year, re-reading. Every year I say I will, and end up just doing it for one trilogy, always trying to read this and that 'really good book' that someone mentioned here, hehe. Stop and go back to the ones I loved, and discover new things there...
All the really good movies are the ones that you need to watch three or more times to truly fully appreciate for all their qualities. There are certainly some fantasy books out there that are worth reading more than twice.

Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2016, 02:14:08 AM »
Maybe that happens.
But I know for myself that there's a minimum for me to enjoy a book:

1. competent prose. Doesn't have to be brilliant, but if the grammar is off or the prose is convoluted (as opposed to old-fashioned - which I can deal with nicely, thank you) I get so bothered I can't enjoy the story.

2. realistic human reactions.

3. fun!

4. not depressing.

Luckily, most of what gets published meets these. Unfortunately, I run into quite the mix in self-pub books.

Summed up perfectly, and seconded but of course I can't let it go so short and sweet. ;D

Great question, ScarletBea, truly don't believe we can read too much, but could it be we read too much into the writing itself?

I'm not often picky about any particular book, but perhaps a bit careful about what I choose to read. My choices cover a wide range, including non-fantasy fiction and non-fiction.

So firstly, looking at particular books and disregarding the practical elements of bad grammar, style and structure on which we would all agree.  Also aware of blatant 'ísms' as cause for criticism but view and judge these individually within a context or era, so not going there.

I have thought for some time that because many of the contributing members of this forum are writers themselves they are more easily critical. This is no bad reflection on our writers, but the reverse and I respect the comments of those whose own writing I have read here. It is simply that they try so hard to get things right, discuss it here, follow certain rules, chew it over, experiment in the contest and are open to critique. It must be so annoying to them to see obvious errors or badly planned plots, or unconvincing characters in other books.

As a reader, some of those would matter to me, but I am simply unaware of incorrect details in general, unless they are a blatant anachronism. I would never notice if it was the right kind of sword, or useless mountain climbing equipment ,(sorry @Nora ;)) or if engineering design is up the creek. But to enthusiasts of any of those things it would understandably matter and affect their enjoyment and satisfaction with a book.

I can also excuse a fairly obvious plot if the characters, the magic and the world are fascinating enough.  I lap up new and unusual magic, eg Mistborn, or an outrageous magic curse, eg Tigana, and to be honest I don't need magic to have a million rules and I don't look for errors in its application. The final effect it achieves is enough for me. I don't need or care about a world's detailed history, only what is relevant to the story now. Characters though are very important to me and do need to be convincing. 

So to some extent I'm easily pleased, but I have complained sometimes for you to know that there are limits.

As far as choosing old or new fantasy books, I have favoured authors, but there are many, and have found new ones here.  I appreciate  the choices and recommendations of some of those on this forum, both writers and readers, because they have brought them to notice.

Doesn't matter if they are a completely new concept or good examples of a well known type, if they are enjoyable and to your own individual taste. Personally went back to a few epic/quest/traditional series and loved them, but also enjoy what may be termed weird.  Now looking for quick and funny for a change, but happy to try anything that entertains me.
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Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Lots of reading - shooting ourselves in the foot?
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2016, 04:21:21 AM »
I'm not all that picky in my reading. I prefer to appreciate books for what they set out to be. I don't really care about the quality of the writing as long as it passes a certain competency threshold. I don't care if I've seen some of the ideas before as long as I get characters I like.