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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CHARLAINE HARRIS IS NOT A GOOD WRITER_Mark Twain



My terrace overlooking Contraband Bayou had company tonight. 


I finally had a moment to sit in my Captain’s chair and look up into the blood moon’s face of shadows seeming to frown back down.   

The muted stars blinked at the polluted night air from the fumes being safely gushed from the petro-chemical complex across the lake.

The ghost of Mark Twain paced angrily back and forth like a caged panther remembering the jungle.  

 Finally, he collapsed down in his misty leather chair as if the thoughts weighing him down were too heavy to support his standing up.

Mark Twain grumbled as he read,

“He was right about that. I didn’t know where he’d put the body, and I realized that I didn’t really care. A year ago it would have torn me up, leaving a body behind as we sped away along the interstate. Now I was just glad it was him and not me who was lying in the woods.”




Mark twisted his lips as if he swallowed his cigar.

“Ah, Sookie, you sweet little sociopath, you. In the hand of an even mildly competent writer, this would be a turning point for Sookie–from decent person to, well … a dry well of morals. 

It could be a question of survival, of self-defense, of what’s ethically acceptable and what ain’t.”


He turned gray-blue eyes to me.  “Charlaine Harris ain’t that kind of writer.”


Mark read a bit more.  “You know, son, Sookie ain’t just self-absorbed in times of stress.  This gal is that way all the time.”


He shook his white mane.  “Kinda funny a telepath can be that way, don’t you think, what with all the thoughts from everyone else a’hammering at your head?”


He thumped Charlaine’s latest book down on the deck of the terrace. 


These are not good books, and Charlaine Harris is not a good writer, but in and of itself, there’s nothing reprehensible about that.”


He chewed on his cigar.
“I don’t always read a book to be floored by the depth and quality of a carefully-crafted storyline and complicated characters; like many others, 

I often read books just to be entertained for a few hours. And for a while, The Southern Vampire Mysteries achieved that. “


He sighed, “There’s nothing overly spectacular or engaging about the first few novels—things happen …


Mark snorted, “ …not always very cohesively, but strung along well enough to resemble a plot if you have very low standards.”


He flashed an evil smile, “Which sometimes I do.”


Mark sighed,
“I understand writing for money. I really do. But have the integrity to do your best work. Small inconsistencies end up being one of the major annoyances as the series goes on.”


He rubbed his face.
“ It becomes difficult to ignore the fact that Harris can’t be bothered to keep notes on her own characters—

clearly, she remembers she said something about the problems Sookie had growing up as a telepath, but not what it was, exactly, and ends up making up a detail that directly contradicts her previous assertions.’


I nodded and said,  

“This happens on multiple occasions, mostly for small occurrences, but in that last book you just threw down, it becomes a legitimate continuity problem when she spells out a timeline of events that completely contradict the plot of a novel three books prior.

When an author can’t be bothered to fact check her own canon, it always feels a little insulting to the reader who notices.”


Mark sighed, “Ah, my curiosity is going to be the end of me.”


He picked Charlaine’s book up and thumbed to his place.  He read a bit, and then froze, reading softly aloud,


The ice pack had done all the good it was going to, and I removed it from my yahoo palace and put it on the table.”


The cigar tumbled from his lips.  “Yahoo palace?  Son, is she saying what I think she is?”


I had no words and simply nodded.



Mark Twain threw the book over the terrace’s railing into the Contraband Bayou where it promptly sank.


14 comments:

  1. I've never read any of this series. Just flew right under my radar setting.

    An author should be accurate when referencing their own works. Checking facts is a must for any writer. Better than a retraction. . .

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  2. Hehe, loved this. I read several of Charlain Harris' Dead And . . novels, and I never liked Sookie. I'm not a chick lit fan and Sookie's squeel qualities made me want to puke. I did love the world building, and the supranatural denizens, and how it all tied together to make a true Urban Fantsy. Got boring after about 5 books though. Didn't care for True Blood either. They totally ruined Eric when they cut his hair.

    I agree with Hemingway regarding a timeline. When I critiquing that is one of my biggest peeves. I notice these things in any story. Perhaps it is a short-coming because I tend to read every word (yes, every word) of a story instead of quickly skimming for the main jist of the story.

    But that attention to detail in my reading promotes the same in my writing. I think writing my triolgy all at once helped with that. I had to remember dates and events and whenever I added or changed something in a later book, I had to sometimes re-write in the earlier books.

    After a while though, I had to keep track of important events for each character using a separate word document to refer back to. I found my writing memory as faulty as my real life memory.

    A writer should know better than not to research her own stories.

    ......dhole

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  3. online kasino
    Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. I've never heard of this writer, or this series. Guess I'm not missing much eh? There are so many writers these days who are popular, but not good. I used to be able to read poor writing just to be 'entertained', but I just can't do it any more. It actually makes me angry. Not that everything has to be Chekov, but it has to be readable!

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  5. D.G.:
    After TRUE BLOOD's first season, I read the first three books, but by the start of the 3rd, Sookie got to a person I no longer liked very much.

    Charlaine completely re-writes the personalities of characters to make them fit what she wants them to do at the moment instead of letting them be consistent in their character and its development.

    But the good news is that her 4th book was placed by Patricia Brigg's first Mercy Thompson novel in the bookstore I frequent. So I found an actual good writer of urban fantasy! :-)

    Donna:
    Apparently Charlaine has completely reversed Eric's personality in her last two books so that he is a different person.

    Sad.

    Yes, like you, I was intrigued by Sookie's supernatural world, but Charlaine did nothing with the logical consequences of vampires coming out to the world.

    Patricia Briggs does a great job of that in her Mercy Thompson novels. As with Charlaine, faes, vampires, and werewolves exist. The faes have come out. The werewolves reluctantly do.

    The vampires are still under the radar as D.G. says. But even better, Mercy is a coyote shifter, and in the 6th novel, she discovers that she was fathered by Coyote when he grew bored and took on human form.

    Anyway, it saddens me when an author who slaved away in obscurity hits it big and forgets the readers who buy her books.

    Keeping track is so important in trilogies or in linked worlds like mine.

    Amit:
    Thanks! I hope he enjoys this post.

    Eve:
    The poor reading that is popular makes me think many are just reading the latest fad to be in on what is hot -- not that they care about good writing -- just to be cool. Unsettling.

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  6. Never read them. Nor have I watched the television series.
    I had to go back and check a lot of facts when writing my third book. So much happened in the first one that affects the third, or it shows up again there. Hoping I don't have any inconsistencies.

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  7. Alex:
    I've stopped watching the TV series for a variety of reasons.

    Can you imagine the logistics of writing a book that's the 11th in a series? Ouch!! I have confidence that your third book will do fine!

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  8. Charlaine Harris is president of Mystery Writers of America, and although I no longer consider myself a mystery writer, MWA remains an organization with which I am aligned, so I'll take care not to offend.

    Disclaimer aside, character inconsistencies are not acceptable, particularly in character driven fiction, which cozy mysteries allege themselves to be (the Stackhouse books are marketed as "cozies with bite"). I say allege because I can't name a single cozy series that involves a true character arc, and in my opinion, it's the arc that denotes "character driven." Since there is no arc, Harris can change her characters at will.

    Another thing to take into account is the pressure placed on established authors to write faster and faster, to put out more and more product. In the shaky world of traditional publishing, even the best known scribes feel pressured to comply. This matched with severely reduced editorial oversight in an industry hurting means far less time and manpower to ferret out the inconsistencies.

    Is it acceptable? Hell, no.

    VR Barkowski

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  9. VR:
    The ghost of Mark Twain sniped, "Mystery Writers of America" must be hard up.

    But Mark is edgier than I am. Robert B. Parker yearly wrote three mysteries plus a Western. Each were well done with characaters consistent with their past actions.

    The lack of a character arc does not excuse her having Eric act in a way directly opposite to the past novels with no explanation of why the behavior shift ... or of having other characters behave in fashions contrary to the past 10 novels.

    A revelation that is actually impossible due to the major storylines of past novels is just sloppy, uncaring writing.

    I commend you for standing up for a fellow mystery writer, even though you no longer consider yourself one. After all, Charlaine is President of a respected mystery writer association.

    You could never offend me. We just see Charlaine differently. I'm sure she would be crushed at my thoughts of her writing. :-)

    After all, look at her success and my lack thereof. So who is the better writer, right?

    Have you read the reviews of her last books? Many readers feel betrayed.

    I simply think she wrote the last Sookie books to finish out her contract. The heart was no longer there, and it showed.

    But as the sudden death of Robert B. Parker showed: our latest novel could also be our last. We should try and make each one we produce be the best our efforts can make it.

    As always you write an insightful, thought-provoking comment. Thanks, Roland

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  10. She probably did exactly that, Roland. I'm sure Harris was weary of the series after 13(?) books. Frankly, I was weary after the first and never read another. I'll happily edit or critique a cozy, but there's no pleasure in the reading. There are too many amazing books out there to dwell in the formulaic and the mediocre.

    And don't get me started on MWA presidents, or I WILL say something I shouldn't. The last three Prezs have been mega-selling women writers. Surely this has nothing to do with appeasing the overwhelming proportion of women mystery writers who constantly b*tch (sorry) that men refuse to read their work?

    Oops, I better shut up. The internet is forever. :)

    VR Barkowski

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  11. VR:
    I am of Hammett's and Chandler's mind about "cozy" mysteries -- murder is always ugly, for it is born from darkness and hatred. To make murder cute is to demean the preciousness of human life.

    So I understand why you would not read cozy mysteries. I read the first Sookie novels for the supernatural elements in them and to see what ramifications would come from vampires coming out. Sookie soon turned into someone I did not want to share head time with!

    I gathered from Charlaine being named President that the MWA was a popularity contest affair.

    Chandler, MacDonald (both of them) and Parker all three wrote quality fiction with depth and meaning. They appealed to those even outside the mystery lovers.

    Since my audience is about 30, I think you are safe writing your mind here! LOL. :-)

    Thanks for the insightful comment! Always your friend, Roland

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  12. *quietly lifting my hand* uh...i read the books. they're light, like a beach trip read. but really, after the first 2 or 3...it should have been over. it's like some stories get milked to death. no pun intended. and Eric's change was disappointing.

    never watched the show. whew!

    fun post, very interesting, too, with the responses...

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  13. Words Crafter:
    I read the first 3 books, too. I skimmed the next two and found I really didn't like who Sookie had turned into.

    Besides, the ghost of Mark Twain has read most of them -- what does that tell you? :-)

    He's glad you liked his post!!

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  14. Words Crafter:
    Weren't the responses great on this post? Mark really enjoyed them. Those of my friends who don't read the comments miss so much! It's sort of like having a get-together with good friends, laughing and discussing interesting topics. :-)

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