7/30/2009

How Not to Make Me Your Book Pimp

Humorous Pictures


When I like a book, I tell everyone about it. I mean, everyone. I've chased teens down aisles in bookstores to encourage them to make specific purchases. I've sought out store managers, librarians and stock boys to spread the word. The weirdest experience yet yielded a conversation with a bookseller who asked if he could have the leftover frosting from my cupcake. I mean this literally.

I let him.

I felt dirty after.

But he ordered more books for his store.

If I buy a book I'm prepared to pimp it. But what happens if the author leads me along a merry path for over 300 pages just to eventually do me wrong? Bad wrong? This happened recently with a book I'd really looked forward to reading. Cute concept, interesting cover, sweet recommendations. And then ... well, I'll explain it like this.

Say you write a book about werewolves. You set me up to buy into your mythology. I suspend belief willingly and tiptoe through the tulips with you. Then I not only buy your mythology, but I fall in love with it. You give me reasons for werewolves to exist that I never considered, reasons I could almost believe in real life. And just as I'm rounding third at full speed on my way home, you drop in some whacked out logic that works its way into the story from far left field.

Logic along the lines of, "I know I told you for 300 pages that werewolves were the product of science and nature. I know you believed me. But, surprise! In a crazy twist, the truth is, my werewolves were really created when the Quileute tribe from Twilight and Remus Lupin from Harry Potter injected people with their venom, er, spit. And here's my plot climax ... they will fight a war for werewolf rights alongside Scott Speedman from Underworld against ......... wait for it .......... Wolverine."

If you do this, not only will I not pimp your book, I will not speak your name.

Readers place a certain amount of trust in a writers to deliver what is promised. I don't do sad, in case you didn't know. I won't watch or read The Notebook. A River Runs Through It almost killed me. I don't care how amazing The Time Traveler's Wife is, you can forget it. I avoid tears like housework.

But I chose to review a book recently that I knew would make me cry. I love the author's work SO MUCH that I girded my loins, grabbed some tissues and went for it. (Although it took me three weeks to talk myself into it. True story.) The difference is that I had enough TRUST in this author to believe that although she might rip my emotional guts out, I also believed she'd make it all okay again. She delivered, beautifully. (Yes, Maggie Stiefvater, I'm talking about SHIVER.)

Books might be inanimate objects, but readers and books have real relationships. A reader expects certain things from a book - entertainment, emotional connection, resolution. It's just not a good idea for a writer to leave a reader feeling lied to, cheated of emotion or without a resolution (even if there's a sequel).

So I won't be pimping the book I discussed earlier. Truthfully, I have fifty pages left and I really don't think I'm going to finish it. But like every book I read these days, I learned a valuable lesson I will apply to my craft.

Betrayal is bad. If you make a promise, you'd better deliver.

Disclaimer: The book that pissed me off had nothing to do with wolves, werewolves or even cocker spaniels. Vampires either, just for the record. Thanks.

9 comments:

  1. The kitten picture is so cute I can't stop looking at it.

    I came here through Rachel's blog. I agree about books taking a turn in another direction. I found that to be the case in a Stephen King's novel (though that didn't stop me from still liking him). I think it was Rose Madder to be specific, but it was so many years ago, it's hard to say.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Agree totally. Nothing worse than book betrayal. Movie betrayal is one thing but book betrayal is a whole 'nother story. Get it, story? Ok I'm done.

    ReplyDelete
  3. *blush*

    Also, I enjoyed making you cry very very much, for the record.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nicely written. I totally agree.

    And I NEVER cry...movies or books. With the glaring exception of the movie UP. Shut up. You'll cry too. Just wait.

    Anyway, I never cry but I did with SHIVER. Bet Maggie the sadist Stiefvater enjoyed that too.

    And I want to re-read SHIVER and cry again.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Omigosh, you must be really pissed to not read the last 50 pages. I would have to finish it at that point. But I would never read anything by that author again. Ever.

    I know what you mean about sad books. I read "Til we Have Faces" by C.S. Lewis in high school. It's the story of Cupid and Psyche. It literally tore my heart out and I bawled for DAYS afterward. I loved the book but I could never read it again because it made me so sad.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh I hate feeling betrayed that way. But I think it's great for someone to simply discard those books that aren't to her liking and focus on the ones she does like. Rather than trashing the book publicly and harming the author, you're setting out to help as many authors as you can.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Totally understand this sentiment. I just deleted (borrowed from local library via ebook) "Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived" last night.

    When you read something sold as non-fiction, even with the title of "true story" and find out it was entirely made up about 2/3rds of the way in, the betrayal stings.

    I had begun to question scenes in the book that seemed completely implausible and used my Google-Fu to research. Sadly, I found out that it was all fiction, yet sold under the umbrella of memoir/non-fiction. *sigh*

    No matter how much I might have been enjoying the fantastic tale, the author broke the contract with me. By telling me that those events were true when they weren't -- that's enough to make me stop reading.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Totally understand this sentiment. I just deleted (borrowed from local library via ebook) "Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived" last night.

    When you read something sold as non-fiction, even with the title of "true story" and find out it was entirely made up about 2/3rds of the way in, the betrayal stings.

    I had begun to question scenes in the book that seemed completely implausible and used my Google-Fu to research. Sadly, I found out that it was all fiction, yet sold under the umbrella of memoir/non-fiction. *sigh*

    No matter how much I might have been enjoying the fantastic tale, the author broke the contract with me. By telling me that those events were true when they weren't -- that's enough to make me stop reading.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The kitten picture is so cute I can't stop looking at it.

    I came here through Rachel's blog. I agree about books taking a turn in another direction. I found that to be the case in a Stephen King's novel (though that didn't stop me from still liking him). I think it was Rose Madder to be specific, but it was so many years ago, it's hard to say.

    ReplyDelete

Tell us everything: