Thrilling or Annoying?

So I’ve noticed what I think is a disturbing trend, mostly in thrillers.

The book begins with several short chapters. Each chapter has a different main character or storyline going on.

For readers: How long are you willing to twist in the wind, dangling from disparate threads, before the author needs to start tying them together? Not the wrap up of the big plot, of course, but how long can you hop from Jerry the pretzel maker in Brooklyn to Shawntelle the hair stylist in Athens, Georgia, before you get some clue how they link together? Especially when you throw in a shoemaker in Venezuela and an ex-cop in Topeka?

Does the formula work for you, or does it feel overdone? Do you think writers are getting more and more outlandish, putting more and more impossible distance between their characters before bringing them together?

For writers: Do you use this plot device? How many plot lines are too many? Is this how the story evolved in your head? If not, what’s the reasoning behind keeping the reader confused for so long? Are you exercising your “clever” muscle? Is this a rut you’ve been caught in, and you don’t know how to get out?

Obviously, good writing is good writing, and if it catches my attention and keeps me reading, then you’re welcome to use any plot device you like. But when I’m 50 pages in and the plot device stands out more than the plot itself, I think there’s a problem.

It could be my problem. Learning more about writing has ruined some reading for me. While I’m always reading for the pure enjoyment of reading, I’m also reading for craft. I’m less forgiving of small errors. A strict and frightening dichotomy has divided my brain–half is enjoying the ride, and the other half is meticulously taking apart the structure of the entire piece, from sentences to the main character’s character arc.

Or is this just how modern thrillers are written and I should sit down and shut up? Like sausage, I should enjoy the end product without looking too closely at how it’s made?

 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Thrilling or Annoying?

  1. Sue

    As a reader, I don’t like this type of writing. Maybe I’m old-fashioned–give me continuity!

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