I spent the last two weeks re-reading a book series from my childhood. I never finished it before because by the time all the books came out (slooooowly), I’d lost interest. A while ago I decided, hey I should finish that. But since I hadn’t read one since I was about 11, I had to start over.
I won’t tell you what the series is. Just that I spent the last two weeks of my life tearing through it, reading all day every day. I loved it, thought it was awesome, admired the author’s writing style and characters, and thought everything was peachy keen and swell and that I was reading something truly wonderful, one of those things that you remember for a long time because it’s so good, until the last book turned out to be one of the biggest piles of horse crap I’ve ever read.
Beloved characters turned into a joke, a great plot degraded, the patience it took to write a book series thrown out the window when a whole new plot was brought up in the last 30 pages. A stupid plot that, after everything that had happened, I doubt many other readers gave much of a crap about, either. Then, after all of that, there was no ending. It just ended mid-scene. WHATTHEHELL???
Hence, why I will not mention the title.
It made me mad. I don’t understand why it made me so mad. Maybe because I invested so much time. Maybe because I loved it. Maybe because I cared about the characters. Maybe because I admired the writing style and found things about it that I wanted to incorporate into my own writing. And then bam! Garbage spewed onto the page.
Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but it doesn’t feel like it. I don’t understand how an author can treat her characters like that, like the lives they’d lived in her head were nothing, a joke, easily thrown away. Using them in a way that characters should never be used. I call it character cannibalism. Having them behave in a way that doesn’t jive with anything else they’ve done. Taking everything they’ve gone through and acting like it meant nothing. I don’t know how to describe it. It wasn’t like I was sad that the characters got depressed and didn’t live happily ever after. Whatever. I can deal with that. It was like the author intentionally made a joke out of them. Like she didn’t care what came out on page at that point, she just wanted to be done with it.
I’ve asked Raine, the only remaining reader of my story, to stop me and smack me and shout at me if I ever do something like that to any of my characters.
The whole ordeal (which is how I’ll probably think about it for a while) made me think about my own story. The story I’ve neglected working on for the last 2 weeks because I was reading this other story. Another reason why I’m so mad. I spent half my break reading these things, for WHAT?
I know, I know, the writing style still inspired me, the characters are still good, blah blah. I can pretend the last book doesn’t exist. I can strike it from my memory.
Anyway, it inspired me to go back to writing as opposed to reading. It seems I’m only capable of doing one of those things at a time. If my brain is in reading mode, I don’t write for weeks. If it’s in writing mode, I don’t read for months.
I won’t say the series made me lose faith in other authors. I won’t say that I distrust them not to do something horrible to discredit and abuse everything good they did before that. I won’t say that this person is a bad author when maybe five books out of the series were less than awesome, and only one stunk like a baby’s diaper.
Unfortunately, that one was the last. The finale. The END. You don’t ruin the end of something. You don’t build people up only to screw them. If this author had screwed the characters the way she did, but had at least done it poetically, fine. But it wasn’t poetic. There wasn’t anything beautiful or inspiring about the writing style in that last book. It was one big mess.
So I went back to my own story tonight. Kept on chugging along. I can already see that reading those books helped my writing style. I can already see that it will help with how I present my younger characters, especially with their dialogue. It’s clear that that author has authoring skills superior to my authoring skills. Good things.
Doesn’t change that I’m mad. If anything it makes it worse, because I know the author could have made the ending amazing. Potential wasted.
But anyway, I made it to page 287 tonight. I was hoping to get to page 300 by the time school started, but that was today and that didn’t happen. Why? Because I was reading that other series.
But I can’t say I regret it, or I wish I hadn’t read it. I do wish I hadn’t gotten so invested in the story that it was such a disappointment. I wish I’d been able to take the positives and forget about the negatives. Maybe that would have been no problem if the stinker had landed anywhere else in the series but at the end. Who knows.
I don’t know if I could ever write a series. For one thing, I don’t know if I’d have the patience to let a story unfold that slowly. I don’t know if I’d have enough story to fill more than one or two books.
For another, what if I did that? Wrote something, made people love it, then wrote a disappointing ending. What if, even worse, I thought the ending was amazing, but everyone else hated it? They felt about it the way I feel about the ending of this other series. Disappointment after an 800-page book is one thing. Disappointment after an 8,000-page series that took 9 years to release from beginning to end is another. Series writers must be brave people, that’s all I can say about that. Too much risk, too much chance of disappointing.
Anyway, my point for this post… rewrite, page 287. And counting. Because I’m done reading for a while. Back to writing.
My other point. Don’t eat your own characters. It makes people MAD.