Thursday, January 31, 2013

Plot Line Disappointments and
Things That Make You Say, "Oh, uh uh!"

So I’m listening to the latest Hollows book, Ever After, by Kim Harrison, when I had my latest "Oh, uh uh!" moment.

"What exactly is that, Ashley" you ask me with a quirk of your eyebrow.

Well, faithful blog follower, I’ll tell you.

That’s what I call a moment in a story where either the plot has taken a turn down Disappointment Lane or where the writer has done something I find remarkably boneheaded. In the case of Ever After, it was a bit of both, but more about Kim just acting the bonehead.

One of the quickest things a writer can do to make me say, "Oh, uh uh!" is to relate a major (or simply ground shaking) event without actually presenting it. You know the old adage, show me don’t tell me? This is generally sound advice.

I don’t want to spoil anything literary, so I’ll use the television series Charmed as an example. One of the original cast members was Shannen Doherty. She played Prue, one of the charmed sisters, for three seasons. When the fouth season begins however, Prue is just gone. They introduced Paige, a half-sister played by Rose McGowan, to fill the glaring hole.

Now if you are familiar with Charmed then you see the problem, I’m talking about. If you aren’t let me just explain that the series is about three sisters who discover they are witches. They fulfill a prophesy of the "charmed ones," the most powerful witches ever born. The series details their battles with the forces of evil keeping the world safe from demon invasion and other nasties of the sort... more or less... it’s been a while.
At any rate, Prue was one of those three sisters, and therefore a key character in the story. Prue apparently died.

"How’d she die?" you ask.

Good question. I don’t rightly remember, because it was NEVER SHOWN TO US. We get a strange one liner dropped about her death and the first episode of Season Four continues on establishing Paige as the replacement sister.

Now in TV land I understand why something like that happens, but in a novel?

When something big happens in a book, I don’t want to hear about it second hand and after the fact from another character. I want a front row seat. Prue spent three seasons kicking ass along side her sisters. She was a bad ass. Whatever took her down had to have been some amazing stuff, and as someone who had become emotionally invested in the trials and tribulations of her character I didn’t get the closure I needed from her departure.

I see stuff like this happen in books far more often than I care for. Plans are made and we don’t get to see the execution, only a report that the attempt failed or succeeded; the plot involves a war or rebellion that seems hopeless and all of the sudden the rebels have taken all the cities except the last one; and of course, someone of importance dies or otherwise leaves the series and all we get is a "they were here and now they aren’t." There are countless other examples, but you get the picture.

Plot disappointments are a little different, although they also sometimes result in "Oh, uh uh" moments for me. The difference generally being, that I sometimes feel guilty about my reaction. I’ve read countless books where the plot began so brilliantly and yet the writer decides to take the story down a different, often less interesting and sometimes just flipping ridiculous, road.

These are harder for me because it’s not my story and I want to respect the writer’s individual creative drive. I feel guilty saying the story sucked just because I personally didn’t care for where the writer went in the end. So much so, that I generally DON’T say it. I just think it VERY LOUDLY to myself.

If the story’s well written and logically consistent, I might rate it higher than I really felt about it owing to the fact that just because I didn’t like the direction the writer took doesn’t mean someone else won’t. That being said if the plot disappointment is of the flipping ridiculous variety, then I’ll probably tell you about it ad nauseam.

So what about, y’all? Do you feel guilty for not liking a book when it’s about a reasonable plot choice? How about "Oh, uh uh’s" is anyone else out there feeling me? I’d love to ask some of yours, but... spoilers... ya know.

Still, without saying what, here are a few books that have caused me one or more "Oh, uh uh" moments. Note that the fact that these books caused them in me doesn’t necessarily mean I hated the book... although for some...

Ever After (Obviously)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
A Storm of Swords
Drink Deep
House of Night <– This series is full of them, I have no idea why I keep reading it.

I promise there are others, but I’m going to stop before my frustration level maxes out. Cheers!



  1. Good post. I guess any writer could have an "oh, uh-uh" moment. We get too close to our characters and stories and can't always see the holes. But it stinks when you're the reader, not the writer:)

  2. I'm sort of having an "oh, uh-uh" moment, myself, Ashley. I don't know if it's in the same context, but something happened in the fourth Hollows book, A Fistful of Charms, and that the main character did something she swore she would never do. I'm still shocked and a bit disappointed by it.

    I agree with you 100%, about Mockingjay, Bloodrose and Drink Deep. :P

  3. I can't think of any particular examples right now but I have definitely had some! I hated that in Charmed too!!

    Which part of Storm of Swords gave you one of those moments?