Holly McCamant: No one likes the tragic flaws of books
Okay, I confess, I am not a book expert. I have not gotten my doctorate in literature from Northwestern University. I am a just a teenager who reads a lot.
Most books I read I enjoy, but that’s probably because I am very selective in what I read. So I don’t get mad at a book very often. However, if you were anywhere around me on the Sunday before last, you might have picked up that when I get mad at a book, I get very, very mad and have a tendency to rant to whoever will listen.
A while ago, I started reading some of Karen Kingsbury’s books. In the beginning, I could handle them. Karen Kingsbury has this talent of making readers feel when they read, and her books have a very good message. After a while, though, the flaws of her books started to bug me.
Then I discovered the Bailey Flanigan series, also by Karen Kingsbury. I thought this series might be better, because it was written third person limited through the view of young woman who is dealing with a love triangle. Since Karen Kingsbury is great at writing with emotions, I thought I might be able to appreciate her with this series again.
I was so wrong. The Bailey Flanigan series’ main character is based off the Karen’s daughter, Kelsey. Unfortunately, this perspective caused Karen to be super soft on the main character, Bailey.
In the series, Bailey has an unhealthy reliance on her mom, never makes any bad decisions, and her circumstances always work out the way her mother would like them to. Her obstacles are to grow up to be a mature young woman and choose the right husband (in other words, the man that her mother approves of).
I, as a reader, was disappointed that the series was not a story of two people who belonged together coming back together but going their own ways.
That’s when I realized that there are some rules that writers should follow.
There’s a big difference between a good book and a bad book, and the good books usually follow these rules:
- The main character has (a) major flaw/flaws. I’m not talking about the main character making occasional mistakes. It’s vital to have flaws that stick out. In the Bailey Flanigan series, Bailey has no flaws whatsoever. No one is perfect in real life, so characters in books shouldn’t be either.
- The obstacle needs to be big and clear. This clarity is essential for a good plot. The bigger the obstacle, the more interesting the plot, and the better the book is to read. One of the tragic flaws in Bailey’s series is that the reader has no major obstacles.
- Any romance should be a side focus. All the best books I’ve read have romance as a side thing. Make the main character go through something else — avenging her best friend’s capture, defeating an evil wizard, etc.
- Make sure to pace the plot. Once I read a book called “Forgotten” by Cal Patrick. The pace really picked up, but didn’t have an event worth the quick change in pace. I detested that book so much; I didn’t even submit it to a book exchange, because I felt it would be cheating someone to give anyone a book with such bad plot pacing.
- The events in the story/series need to be somewhat realistic. Many books have a lot of events that wouldn’t happen in real life. However, too many unrealistic events get really tiring. For example, Karen Kingsbury’s Baxter Family Drama series has way too many tragedies.
If all authors would follow these rules, we would have a lot less angry people due to bad writing. Also, if you pick up either the first or last of the Bailey Flanigan books at my church, a neon note card with a long explanation about why you should not read those books may fall out. I admit to being the writer.
If an author is going to write a book, he or she should write it well.
Holly McCamant is a freshman at Frazee-Vergas High School.