I once picked up a novel by a “good” author and attempted to read it. I tried more than once to read what may have only been the first 3 pages, but they were the longest pages of my life. In reality I may have read the first 6 or 9 pages, but whatever the number I know that I felt like I was stuck in time and space trying desperately to read myself into some action and failing bitterly.
In those never ending pages that I read there was no dialogue, no action, no emotion, and no substance. In those never ending pages there was only a never ending description of one minute. Seriously.
I cannot tell you how much I didn’t care about how the moon looked and how much I wanted to know why these characters were sitting in some old guy’s driveway. I cannot tell you because it would take pages of description that YOU wouldn’t care about, and I wouldn’t put you through that.
I later learned why the characters were in that driveway, by reading a summary of the novel. I gave up on the actual novel and on that author after years of trying to read that novel.
I wish that was an exaggeration—that it only felt like years of trying to read that novel—but because I’m not one to give up on novels easily I actually let it take up space on my bookshelf for years and I went back to it periodically to try again thinking that something must be wrong with me.
You see, as I wrote, this novel was written by a “good” author, one who has won awards and been on best seller lists, and been featured in reviews by prominent authorities. I had even read a book by this author before, a semi-biographical novel, and I’d really enjoyed it. But, in the end, I decided that I’d given her other novel too much time on my shelf and in my eyes, and that I was going to move on to other novels that would be much more interesting.
Because that’s what novels should be—interesting. Some of them are insightful, and some are exciting, but all should be interesting.
I read that zombie novel I wrote about on Monday because it wasn’t just about gore (though there was plenty of gore in it), I read it because it was about more than the status quo of zombie novels. It was an interesting book because it was from the zombie’s point of view, and because it focused on a sort of redemption for the zombie. This is good stuff.
Novels should be interesting, from the plot, to the characters, to the setting and dialogue, and all the way to the character names.
I don’t want to read a book about characters with a plethora of dull names, names that I’ve read on 100 characters before. I don’t want to read a book filled with characters whose names come straight out of the top 10 for the year they were “born”, and I certainly don’t want to read a book filled with characters whose names come straight out of the top 10 for the year the novel was written. I want characters who are interesting, and who have interesting names.
I wish the writer from this week’s naming had chosen the more interesting choices that I had given her, like Pepper for the teen whose mom was a chef and Joanne (Jo) for the mom who has to be a tough protector for a rag tag group of kids. I even wish she would have gone back and changed a few of those other names (unless Emma and Olivia are sisters, I think we could do without one of those uber-popular girly names).
Interesting names can only add to an interesting novel.