Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Words in Descriptions

Book descriptions. They have words in them. There are a lot of words to read in a day, so when I get to certain words, I just stop reading the description. Finishing would be a waste of time, because 99% of the time I’m not interested in reading a book of the type these words imply.
Sub-theme: I’m a hypocrite.

1. Detective – This one is a great time saver because it’s so often the first word in the description. “Detective Copper thinks he’s only one day away from retiring…” I don’t like law-enforcement officers as protagonists. It eliminates a lot of conflict and moral tension, because they are imbued with the authority to do things average people aren’t. They also have more resources.
Exceptions: private investigators.
I’m a hypocrite: a perspective character in Psychomancer is a CIA agent. However, she does go rogue.

2. Zombie – I am very bored with zombies, I have been for a long while, and I’m not the only horror writer of this opinion. Too much identical stuff. Yes, we all know that man is ultimately his own worst enemy, and when barricaded in a safe place will eventually self-destruct. Yes, science run amuck. I pretty much always end up bored, and that’s the only thing I can’t forgive.
I’m a hypocrite: one of my favorite of my own short stories is a zombie story, “Normal, Daily Activities.”  One day, I hope someone else will enjoy it.

3. Teenager – I don’t like books about young people. That’s a problem for a horror reader, because a really disproportionate amount of horror is written about young protagonists. I guess it’s because we were more easily scared back then, and the author hopes that by getting his readers to empathize with a teen, they’ll rediscover some of that scareability (I know, I’m having trouble with words right now). Also, teens have even less power than adults, so that ratchets up the tension and story possibilities (the opposite of a law enforcement officer protagonist).
That’s all valid, but I still don’t like reading about kids. Even when I was a kid I didn’t read about kids.
I’m a hypocrite: the protagonist of Blood Tells True is 17.

4. God, Sin, Church – Occasionally I find a horror novel involving religion engaging. Often, I find myself unable to empathize with the characters, and uninterested in the themes explored. If I decide to keep reading after finding a religious word in a description, it’s because something else has caught my attention.
I’m a hypocrite: The description of Burden Kansas mentions sin a number of times, and the book has a church-service scene, and ends with a discussion of the nature of God and forgiveness.

5. Serial killer – Almost as boring as zombies. The antagonist is almost guaranteed to be 2-dimensional and will typically have a ridiculous theme. I can’t even think of a serial killer thriller I’ve enjoyed, though I’ve read a surprising number of them.
I’m a hypocrite: the antagonist in Psychomancer basically has a license to serial kill.

I’m sure there are more. I’m quite cantankerous. I just can’t think of anymore right now.


  1. I am exactly the same way about zombies and teenagers. Another word that drives me away every time is prophecy. That's almost always gonna lead to a Mary Sue main character.

    1. A prophecy revealed; a book goes unread...

      Great hook!

  2. I don't read fiction book descriptions very often. I just grab books off the library shelf and see how far I get past page 1 when I start reading.

    Mostly because I find most descriptions overblown and boring. And, like previews of next week's show, they tend to lie. =)

    1. well, I never trust their claims to genius, but I trust that they're about what they say they're about. I don't read much from the library anymore, unfortunately.

  3. Clever post, Alan. I just realized I've read three of your books.

    1. I don't know if I'm happier for me or you!