It’s sad that people nowadays aren’t really into reading. Yes, they read Facebook posts, LinkedIn profiles, Google reviews, and Twitter updates, but seldom do they chip away at books. Even less read newspapers; everything is online these days, especially through mobile devices. Personally, I’ve outgrown the dailies. I rarely borrow magazines, but when I get the chance, I do devour my share of books. That’s why I am adept at judging the rightful contenders from the flashy pretenders.
I’ve outlined my book list here previously. I tend to go for Grisham, Matt Reilly, and Mitch Albom. They produce quality reads, with reasonable description and captivating dialogue. Grisham alone has offered at least thirty books since his debut in 1989. That alone shows that he’s doing some things right. He has become a household name since his second book, The Firm, was released in 1991. Through time, he has always managed to find a way in his meal ticket, legal fiction. Being a former lawyer also helps. His books are easy reads. Although they have legal and American jargon, it’s better than wading through mountains of rubbish descriptions.
That’s exactly what I faced when I tried out Steig Larsson’s Girl with the dragon tattoo. My chiropractor recommended this, having heard that I was reading Michael Patterson’s latest. When I confirmed that was the kind of books I go for, he said I should read dragon tat, and 1984. Having done some research on both, I was convinced that 1984 was a stream of consciousness drone that played for far too long. I may have reviewed the film adaptation here, but the novel is a whole different version. So I tried dragon tat. At first, all those mountains of description was annoying me. Then I became irked, too irked at too much Sweden and how the characters looked or felt. By the time I reached 80 pages, I gave up. I had to. Lesson number one for any writer out there: do not play with fire. This means stick to what people would know. If you’re a Swedish writer, it’s understandable that you’d write about Stockholm. But please; don’t overdo it. I’m sure your readers could care less about settings and roads and islands and companies. That’s all background noise. Once is enough. If you haven’t been to China, then focus on your plot. Don’t attempt to thicken everything by yapping on and on about a foreign country.
Are you joking?
At times I thought about whether he wasn’t serious about the whole spy thing. I really couldn’t believe how this could be a classic. I guess exotic locales and characters charm some people. Meanwhile, I’ve written about places I’ve never been to. Someone even asked me: have you been there? I just didn’t let on much, but inside I realised how shortsighted he was. The bottom line is this: you can dream and write about anywhere. Anywhere. That’s what fiction’s about: to dream, to teleport. But do realise this: with that fantasy world comes a condition: the place does not have to define your story. Remember that: if everything were all setting-driven, then how bored would the crowd be? Know your audience. When it’s all said and done, write a novel, not a travel guide. Now I know dragon tat made its mark, but as they say, ‘No two persons ever read the same book.’