Monday, October 12, 2015

Yet another popular writer

whose writing style baffles me. (I discussed Dan Brown's Inferno in May 2013.) I started reading Cosega Search by Brandt Legg, and within the first few pages I was amazed that this book has received a 4.7-star rating from 142 people. One reviewer even calls it "Masterfully written." Second sentence: "Larsen Fretwell's voice boomed through the satphone." Boomed? I understand the need for action verbs at the beginning of a book and that the character Larsen is 6'7" and an all-around big, loud guy, but "boomed" is not the right word here. How big is the speaker on a satphone? Booming comes from a car with a monster sound system that rattles the windows of houses as it passes. That's booming. The author could have said that the voice was so loud it was distorted by the phone's speaker and/or that the main character, Rip, had to hold the phone away from his ear because the voice was so loud. It's true that additional words would be required and that "boomed" accomplishes what it does in only one word, but in this case word economy produces the wrong effect. A satphone doesn't come with a subwoofer.

The third paragraph has a couple of rogue semi-colons. (Yeah, it's nitpicky, but still it's something a writer should know.) I think Brandt meant to use colons (:) to point to the text that followed; he also could've used em-dashes (—) or maybe even commas. Here's a good rule of thumb: never use semi-colons. Forget they exist. It's somehow gotten into people's heads that semi-colons are light colons. They're not, despite their name. They're heavy commas. However, the fourth paragraph has "felt welcoming; yet mysterious at the same time." A heavy comma here is too heavy. Shoulda been a regular comma. Typos like this simply make the writing seem amateurish because they're so basic and so easy to avoid. In case you're interested, a semi-colon is used only (1) to connect independent clauses without a conjunction and (2) to separate items in a complex series, a series of items that have their own commas. No other uses. (Except in computer code, but that's another whole rant.)

Sigh. I wish writers wouldn't write descriptions of central characters like "Rip ran a hand through his dusty brown hair." That's like the Shade, in Brown's Inferno, saying "my clear green eyes." It's an abrupt change in viewpoint. When the reader has access to the protagonist's thoughts, whether first-person or third-person, it's jarring to be presented suddenly with a specific external detail of the character's appearance. I understand the need for word economy in page-turners, but details of the protagonist's appearance seem more appropriate when the narration has moved out of the protagonist's head to a more objective viewpoint.

Why are readers so accepting of amateurish writing? I haven't even gone near the Shades of Gray trilogy. I've heard that the writing is so bad that I know I wouldn't get past the first few paragraphs, and then would vent my irritation in a very nasty blog post.