Today, I was reading a fantasy novel. While I didn’t find it to be particularly impressive one way or another, it was not necessarily bad.
The first major problem was the prologue. I suspect this is a work which does not need and should not have a prologue. The prologue itself is written in an inconsistent manner as well, first summarising as if it is intended to be brief and convey information, only to flesh out into dialogue and character interaction over a few pages.
This sort of thing looks very strange, and it ges worse when the first chapter starts. The prologue comes across as bitten off, I as a reader feel left hanging, and if the real main character is not the first or most focal character to show up in the first chapter (which she wasn’t), then I have an even harder time connecting with her.
It did not help that in this case, the main character is yet another “rebellious” princess. Yawn. Just once, I want to see a princess who recognises and respects her duty, and carries herself with the dignity and decorum that should be expected. And who is not portrayed negatively for doing so.
Sigh. “All Places Are America” rant aside, the big fat don’t is not prologues, nor is it boring cliched leads.
It is Don’t Ever Write “That’s Why.”
The writing in this book is undoubtedly unpolished, even childish, if one can say that to include a suspicion of the author being 16. But overly contemporary dialogue that lacks distinction between characters is one thing. This is just insulting.
Readers draw conclusions. Just like glossing over the word ‘said’, this is a case of Readers Are Not Morons that I will never back down on. It’s not like a film, where someone is guaranteed to ask questions instead of paying attention to clues or waiting for the story to continue.
If you write: Sweat beaded over Justin’s brow. The well-dressed man had a firm grip, and his steady gaze was even more penetrating up close. A polite handshake took a few seconds. When the man released him, Justin felt three years older. You do not add, “That was why Justin had not wanted to shake the man’s hand.”
Simple writing can be great. Exposit that a circus has come to town. Let the characters say, “Wow, this is a big deal.” Show or even tell that the town is a ruddy boring place to live.
Don’t follow that with, “That’s why the characters said it’s a big deal.” We know without being told.
Another reason not to do this in narrative is almost petty. “That’s” is not, and never is, a contraction for “that was”. It counts as a mistake in tense.