Today’s Session: 8AM-9AM – 9/2/2011 – Bit of a slow start today, fought it some. It’s been that kind of week. But once I got started, I hit 500 pretty easy. Will stop there for today, though. Not feeling too hot, and want to relax and unwind a bit.
From 8/31/2011 – (Reading Reflection) I started reading Hyperthought by M.M.Buckner yesterday (or the day before?)–it’s interesting what I’m learning. For one, I love how she skips time–no nonsense transitions, just “It was over a year after that when…” –straight to the jump. Gail Tsukiyama does that well, too, as I recall. I also love how she skips the unimportant bits and keeps her sentences tight and short. No fluff. Action style.
HOWEVER, I *don’t* really like how she handles characters–most of them are just so surfaced. It’s not that I don’t think there is character there, somewhere, it’s just that she spends so little time on it. She opts to tell when I’d rather be left guessing, which I guess in one way keeps the story tight and short like her sentences, but I don’t feel as engaged as I do say with the characters in Dhalgren–I love Kidd and Tac and Lanya and even Nightmare, Ernest Newboy, John (that dude who always slaps his leg with things), and Dragon Lady and the Richards (strange and unnerving as they are), and George, and Bunny, and everybody. I _feel_ them, you know? They don’t strike me as made up, they strike me as totally real–just someplace dislocated from where I am, which is why I’m reading about them instead of hanging out with them in person.
Buckner’s characters in Hyperthought feel like characters to me. They’re crafted, but I can tell they’re crafted. Little details pop in out of nowhere to complicate the plot, and that’s another thing I’m not too hot on: the plot is just so…obvious. I don’t mean that the ending is obvious–it isn’t at this point–it’s just obvious that it’s got a plot. Things are always happening–which on one hand is good–but almost to the point of being unrealistic. It’s a bit overworked, maybe, a bit breathless. Like that one story–the Knight’s Wyrd or something like that? You just feel like you’re holding your breath the whole time because the author never gives you time to pause, to reflect, to calm down enough for the next “urgent thing.” It’s go-go-go all the time. I can see how that’s maybe needed in an action story, but isn’t there room for some depth, too? With action happening all the time, it feels like you never dip below the surface of the story–like a rock skimming across water. (For example, Jolie’s getting detained because her signa ring is a fake–we didn’t know that before, so there wasn’t even any dread leading up to it. It’s just–WHAM. Detained, but then released, but then chased, but then nearly a month later, then accosted, then robbed, then almost raped, then escaped, then nearly electrocuted, then rescued–hooray! *breathe*)
I’m also not keen on Buckner’s dialogue in Hyperthought. Her characters *really* like saying each others names. There are so many places where I would tweak things, have her take out duplicate statements, or “reminders” to the reader, or names “Yes, Jolie, I agree.” Who talks like that? Especially when you’re alone with someone? In Dhalgren (I knew it started with an L and ended with an A and that it wasn’t a typical name), it took me a couple pages to find Lanya’s name, because when she’s alone with Kidd, they don’t (and Delany doesn’t) use each others names. Why would they? Just some preliminary thoughts. :)
Having continued on, the “reminders” are getting a little old, particularly for a book so short. (It’s length is actually something I really love–I love those paperbacks that can fit in your back pocket.) The over-explanations (and lack of realistic justifications) fall into this same kind of category. I get that Jolie is a throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of girl, but justifying why she’d trust someone who just recently tried to hurt her by saying: Why should I trust him? I just did, okay ? That’s who I am.–it’s not really convincing. It just comes across to me as a rather cheap shortcut. There’s certainly space for stylistic narrative voice; it is in first person, after all, and Jolie is flippant. I just wish we could skip the reminders and maybe spend those sentences showing us something a little deeper about the characters and the ideas. The ideas are interesting–but again, any mention of them feels a bit brushed over.
That said, I am finding the break-neck action pace rather interesting. I personally think it’s a bit *too* breakneck (no reflection time to actually take in the momentous occasions). It’s a very simple structure: give character goal (though not always a well justified one, the characters all seem to be okay with saying “I just do, okay?” instead of actually showing a deeper emotional reason) is technically the way a plot is made. But there’s got to be enough reason to care about whether or not the main character succeeds, and I’m not sure that’s been as developed as it could have been.
PET PEEVE: I would love it if Jolie (and subsequently Buckner) stopped using the word “hormones” to explain Jolie’s interest in Jin. I get it. She’s a tough chick. She doesn’t like that she’s a touchy-feely girl. I got it. But for crying out loud, blaming every romantic impulse (or lust impulse, as it starts) on “female hormones” (mentioned at least three times thus far) is just getting old.
I do like Jin Sura–but for the same reason I liked the main character in The De Vinci Code: Not because there was a whole lot to him as a character (though…ugh…I have to admit there was probably more to him in TDVC than in Hyperthought, which I don’t like having to say), but because I know he’s the hero, and I know he’s the one I’m supposed to root for. In Jin’s case, I like him only for the reason that he’s supposed to be a really handsome guy with everything going for him, and yet he deliberately tosses all that away. That part is interesting. But I’m still not sure I’ll be that upset if it turns out he dies in the end. He’s not a character I ever feel like I’d need to meet in person (were that technology possible). Not like Kidd, who I’d love to hang out with and discuss writing (if he’d discuss it). :D
So far, Hyperthought does keep me reading, but it doesn’t stop me from putting it down whenever I feel like it. It’s an easy read. It’s not hard to pick up for a few minutes. But it’s easy to let go of, too. I wonder how much of it I’ll remember when I’ve been done with it for a few months.
I don’t read as much action (or at least, classified “action”) fiction, and most of my own fiction is pretty quiet (read: low-action). Here’s a question I’ve run up against while reading this: Is it possible for action-centric stories to have room for deeper character development and deeper theme? Or does the sheer requirement for continual action make it too difficult to incorporate both? I want to believe it’s possible, though perhaps hard to balance. What’s been your experience? Have you encountered a high-action book with fully developed characters and some interesting background themes?