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Idiot Plots and Forced Tension

I finished a book on Monday.  One of the travel paperbacks that I read while the plane takes off and lands, a time when I can’t use my IPad and read while listening to music.  It was a light and amusing read, but I became increasingly irritated by the obtuse behavior of the romantic leads, and the willful misinterpretations and misunderstandings that were used to keep the couple apart.

They author had some help because of the mores and strictures of the Victorian era, but most of it occurred because the characters never stated what they were thinking, feeling or wanting.  Now, if that had been a character quirk or flaw I could have bought it, but in every other instance the couple were forthright to point of rudeness with each other. 

So this whole thing was artifice put in place by the author to manufacture false tension.  By the end of the book it had me really irritated to the point that I probably won’t read another book in this series.

This is a cautionary tale for established writers, and, I hope, an instructive one for new or aspiring writers.  Have events grow out of the personalities of the characters, and make sure the character’s reactions are in keeping with previously established behaviors.  And find a real reason to keep couples apart, not some reason that you’d see on a bad episode of Friends.

Then I pick up another plane book, and find the same damn thing happening.  This is the second book in this series, and in the first book the characters had grown very close, they had been companions for years and had been very open with each other.  Now suddenly in this book they won’t talk to each other, they are making assumptions about how the other person is feeling, etc. etc.  It’s not as extreme as in the first book, but it was there, and I was inclined to be annoyed.

I know people second guess another person’s responses, parsing every word for meaning, but that usually happens early in a relationship.  When people have been dealing with each other for years they have the tools for communication.  So once again this felt like authorial cheating.

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