I am currently attempting to read a novel written by an accomplished and very talented writer whose work I have always enjoyed in the past. The book is a ‘thriller,’ it says so right on the jacket. I have begun to hate these convenient little categories that publishers shoehorn us into. They serve the marketing departments, but no one else. A book is either good or it isn’t. When people ask me what I write, I always tell them ‘crime fiction.’ Isn’t that enough of a category?
No, it is not.
You must, apparently, get much more granular than that. You have to choose. Police procedural? Hard-boiled? Cozy? Thriller? Standard PI? And once your choice is made, you need to confine yourself to the established formulae for your chosen sub-genre.
I hate it.
This is all Joseph Campbell’s fault. You can’t write about characters, places and events you find compelling, no, you have to invent a flawed protagonist, he has to undergo THE HERO’S JOURNEY, oh and not through choice, either, he has to be forced into it, he has to be confronted with his biggest flaw, he has to fail, repeatedly, until he finally transcends his…
What a load of bullshit. Yeah, let’s all rewrite Star Wars, over and over again. It’ll be great, you’ll love it.
So, back to this novel I have been flogging myself to finish. The author has chops, no doubt about it, and this thing is a bestseller. It has its flawed hero, its protagonist’s allies, its brilliant but villainous villain… I think my problem with it is that it is too easy to see the whole thing coming, one or two paragraphs into each scene you know what the scene is designed to accomplish, you can check off the appropriate box on the ‘thriller’ checklist…
I can’t exactly blame the guy for writing like this, hell, he’s a bazillionaire and I am most definitely not. But you know what? I am not reading any more of this shit. It’s like looking at a hundred different houses, each with the exact same floor plan. Is it enough that each one has slightly different furniture?
No, it is not.
Take me someplace I’ve never been, goddammit, introduce me to people I’ve never met, tell me something I don’t know. Show me something different. I’m giving you my time, here, it’s the most valuable thing I’ve got, stop wasting it. Teach me something! If nothing else, show me who you are.
Life is too short for tropes.