The problem with Touch the Dark and Claimed by Shadow by Karen Chance is that she never shows us why her heroine is like us...
How's that for not starting at the beginning?
In the beginning, I posted a comment to a friend's blog and discovered that I was registered. Google had apparently taken my gmail address, added it to the name I use for another site*, and created a blog waiting to happen. I didn't necessarily need a blog; I've been using LiveJournal for years to keep in touch with friends publically and to write a private e-diary, and I use the other site to publish opinion pieces. Yet, an idea had taken seed in my head and it clearly wanted to grow.
A chronicle of my success going from would-be-novelist to novelist, or of my failure--a cautionary tale to keep others from being stuck in place, too.
Like most other things, the idea was procrastinated upon until it looked like I would never do it. As Chance would have it, (bad pun originally not intended, but why write around it?) I'd started re-reading Touch the Dark--a book I hadn't liked all that much--to refresh my memory before giving the second book a shot. I kept thinking, This isn't bad. Was the only problem that I read it right after something that I loved so much more?
I'm a reader on a budget. I want to get plenty of enjoyment out of each book I buy. And I'm a serious fangirl--I like to get as many books from new authors as I can to stimulate their careers (in my own little way) and keep the books rolling in. Lastly, as someone who wants to be where they are, I've got this huge cheerleader mentality. I wanted to like it. It wasn't bad. The opening scene was one of the most attention grabbing that I've seen. So why was the rest of it leaving me flat?
When I figured it out, I took the answer as another lesson in writing, and as a reason to start the blog.
Item. The information dump. Speculative fiction writers have a big challenge in letting the reader in on how their world is different from The World We Know. When done "right", the reader gets a lot of info without feeling force-fed. As it's done in the books question, I wouldn't have been surprised to see sidebars with gaming statistics.
Item. Why should we like her? This is what it really came down to. Touch the Dark is an interesting story with the sort of feisty heroine urban fantasy readers eat up. From the very beginning, we're shown how Cassie Palmer is special. But that's a given. Genre novels are written about characters who either leap into a strange new world, or get dragged, kicking and screaming. They're all special, be they necromancers, werecreatures, vampires or vampire hunters, or relatively regular people with talents. You can't get rid of all the frills--that would just turn paranormal romance into romance, urban fantasy into everything from adventures to chick lit to mysteries. But what makes the characters normal is at least as important as what makes them special. We need that connection to a person to give a damn about the cool powers or thrilling situations.
Now, the trick will be internalizing the lesson for my own work.
.....Or, you know, cleaning up a manuscript and putting it in the mail. It's hard to get published without that.
(Oh, and that other site: dustymoon )