Monday, October 11, 2010

Learning from a Bestseller

I just finished Dean Koontz' 2009 BREATHLESS. I spent-busy studying every word. If you need help with your characterization, read Koontz. He can make you empathize with the dirtiest pond scum.

A simple thing I notice routinely in his writing, he likes to throw in vocabulary, and twists of expressions that exceed the seventh-grade reading we're encouraged to stick to. Me, I don't mind a three-syllable adjective when I mean to be sarcastic. Judge for yourself if Koontz uses too much.

BREATHLESS tramped on the centerline for my taste. What's the centerline? The focal storyline. The reader is two-thirds into the novel before it even bubbles up. It drags, with the characters' stories taking center stage. Then the centerline falls flat. It was weak and way out there. I like fantasy—don't know I would categorize BREATHLESS as fantasy. But it pressed my believability too far.

I prefer a single protagonist, with rich figures that come and go, serving to enrich the plot. BREATHLESS is all about a half-dozen central figures. For me, that weakens the centerline. It felt as though I was reading six different novels mingling within one book jacket. At least he waited to change point of view at chapter breaks.

Hope I didn't insult any Koontz fans. This was not a review—it was a learning experience :O)

Write Every Day!

Regards, Mac

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read this book yet, but I do sometimes find ensemble casts hard to follow. I have a read a few books where the author pulls it off. But I've been disappointed more often than not. One of my favorite authors tried doing this in the seventh book in a very good series. All her books are full of characters, but this one in particular tried to follow the storylines of 4 characters, switching back and forth between the plots.

    Drove me nuts. It took me a while to get into each thread and as soon as I did, she'd switch to someone else. I'm too invested in the series to quit reading it now, so I'll still buy her next book, but I hope she goes back to her regular format :)