Monday, August 23, 2010

The Two Sins of a Writer

Few days back  a  friend sent me a children’s  book requesting me to review it for  a leading English newspaper. It had been self-published by my friend’s friend. The book was small, I finished reading it in one sitting. After I closed the book I was left with a strong sense of being cheated. Yes, it was as though the writer had made it her personal business to cheat me: the reader.

The topic was wonderful: supernatural elements and previous births have always fascinated us ( Indians.) The writer could have gone the whole hog and written  a thriller or  a racy whodunit, but all  that the reader got  was a flat main character, clueless  about  what he had to do with his talent (of  being able to see his previous lives in visions).

Though the book was written in a simple and easy to read style for a ten year old, and may not  bore a kid, but neither could it be called entertaining. It was a book that I would say had no impact whatsoever on me. It made me think.

Do writers sin? I mean they spend all their time scribbling furiously,  having  conversations with their characters, wondering how to get their main characters  out of troubled waters and tight spots, where actually is the time to do indulge in a bit of crime and sin?

Yes, we writers are liable to sin and I mean sin in a literary world. The two sins we are prone and susceptible to commit are the Sins of Boredom and Cheating. We can be accused of boring our readers and cheating them of  an amazing experience. To be honest, the writer had committed those two sins.  When I  opened the first page I expected a joyride of paranormal experiences that would hurtle the ten year old protagonist and me over a roller coaster ride of different births. But I was in  for  a major disappointment. All that the writer showed were dull glimpses of just this one birth and nothing else. The ten year old  was trapped in a dull life which the writer had not bothered to spice up.

I expected the writer to introduce us to atleast  a few different births the protagonist  had undergone. But she didn’t think it necessary to show even  a single one. I wonder why she had chosen an amazing topic and  been indifferent to it. 

The sins of Boredom and Cheating   make me shudder. I would hate to commit them. We can bore our readers to death by  dull and flat descriptions. We can cheat them by not matching our book to their expectations and disappointing them. 

When readers buy our books they are literally buying a ticket  for a joy ride. They will expect  certain thrills and spills and  few tumbles. After all it’s a ride. So, if all they experience is a flat  monochromatic journey at just one speed, they are going to be  disappointed. They may never ride again with us.

Have you ever been left with a feeling of boredom and  of having been cheated after reading a book? Have you ever picked up a book expecting certain experiences and been sorely  disappointed?


  1. Yep, it happens now and then. But if I get bored, I never finish the book. I have too many good books waiting to be read.

  2. I can't think of any books that have bored me in recent times. Like Lynda, I suppose I just don't get back to them once I put them down. I do worry sometimes that the lines I chuckle over while writing them may fall flat for someone else. But then, that's what critique groups are for -- if a fellow writer is bored or doesn't chuckle over your manuscript it's a good warning you need to liven it up a little. :-)

  3. Oh gosh, how clever. Oh my heart would sink a thousand times if I thought my readers felt bored and cheated. But I know exactly what you mean, and have also read books where the author decided to go for an easy path instead of really stretching themselves and their story. I shall remain vigilant to make sure I never do the same!

  4. Yes Yes! Last week I stopped reading two books because of that reason. I fear mine will do the same to someone!

  5. Yes, I get bored. Very easily, in fact. My writing has let me be more critical, and now that time is very tight for me, I simply don't finish books that don't grab me after a chunk of pages.

    It may be an issue of boredom and cheating; however, I'd like to hope it's just a "not for me" kind of thing. Then gain...well...sometimes it's just plain boring.

  6. I hate being bored while reading, more than almost anything else. And I have been. It's worse when I can see where the writer stopped caring. Many times I'm bored by authors on the best seller lists! Guess I'm hard to please. :)

  7. Yes, I have, and I also feel cheated when that happens. I don't have oodles of time and I like to come away feeling it was time well spent. I know that will happen sometimes so I try and learn from it.
    Have a wonderful week:)

  8. This has happens to me several times and feeling "cheated" is a great way to describe it. When you know the storyline is a good one and you open it up to read and dissapoints. The WORST feeling ever!

  9. Lynda..Just last week I abandoned a book after reading only two pages. It was a book I had wanted to read for a long time.

    Elizabeth...I envy you. I feel critique groups are great for sharpening our writing skills. Unfortunately I am not a part of any such group.

    Jayne..its my constant endeavour to remain alert where cheating and boring my readers is concerned. I would hate to do that.

    Lydia..I agree that our writing does make us more critical.

    Birgitte...many times I have been bored by authors on best sellers list. There are many books people rave about, but I have just not liked them. writers though we love to read we are unable to read all the books we want. Its then we drop books that bore us and prefer going with stories and authors we like.

    Alexis...thankfully the book I am currently reading has not disappointed me at all.

  10. Oh gosh yes! *raises hand high in the sky* There are so few books out there that keep my attention. I'm finiky that way.

  11. Although I sometimes keep trying to give a boring book a chance, I have plenty of good books on my list and so I move on.

    However, reading your post inspired my latest post which has some cures for giving pizzazz to a ho-hum plot. Check it out!

    Btw, I love the image with this post!

  12. Love the pic. Reminds me of Ivy in school. hehe Just kidding, mostly. :)

    I've been disappointed after reading lots of books. After reading, I wondered how they ever got published. And like you, I felt horribly cheated. Now I know my time is valuable, so if a book bores me after the first two pages, I put it down and never read it again.

  13. Heck yes, I've felt cheated before. When a writer is bored of their own story or are too lazy to make it good then it shows and it shows a lot. I felt cheated after reading Cormac MacCarthy's 'The Road'. The ending was like he just decided he was bored with the story and wanted to end it so he did the first thing that came to mind. There was no careful thought to it or delicate handling of the situation. It made me furious.

    It's the writer's job to write the best story they can. They have a responsibility to the reader to give their all.


  14. When I get bored of my writing I always ask myself WHAT'S AT STAKE? Until you can answer that question and answer it good, put the pen down and go to the beach. that's what I do anyhow.
    Rachna, could you name an Indian writer or two that I should definitely read?
    Indian culture really fascinates me because my g-ma was a travel agent and India was her favorite country. It is top of my next travel list, especially since I have an uncle of sorts in Delhi. Anyways, hope to talk soon. :)

  15. Thanks for the recommendations! They are on my reading list!