breaking up with a literary “horror” author (or why a great premise is never enough)

There’s a Canadian writer that I have just given up on. I first discovered this author while travelling for my work and his novel was okay, I guess, for when you wanted to read but not be too invested in the plot. It was great for being in places where I still have to keep my wits about me, like in airports or hotel lobbies. It was so forgettable, though, I had to rebuy the book twice. But I purchased both of them from used book stores after the original. The story was so forgettable that I both couldn’t reward the author with more sales that benefited them and I forgot about the physical copy of it almost anywhere I put it down.

But man, it had potential. And I truly wanted to see if that potential ever rewarded the reader for sticking around. But it never happened. The end of the story was just the resolution of the premise with dithering and dickering between those two events. It could have been an excellent novel but for the protagonist giving so little fucks about anything. Through long stretches, I could barely muster enough interest to keep going.

But it was really an excellent premise.

Then his second book came along and I read that, too. It was about a really cool premise that the protagonists didn’t really care about, and the ending of the book was the resolution of that premise. As had his first book. And his third. I was starting to recognize a horrible pattern emerging.

When I gave the last book of his over to my wife to tell her to dispose of it, it was because the character — in a novel with a really cool premise — had just gone on for chapters about how much he doesn’t really care if he lives or dies.

And at that point, neither could I.

This is why the Forgotten Last Scale of mine is so important. A book that has a memorable premise, by my scale, is a “good” book. But stack too many good books on top of each other and the reader (eventually) won’t be fooled again. They’ll remember the disappointment of the premise never really converting to anything meaningful more than they will remember the cool premise after a certain point.

Had the author’s works had a truly memorable moment in those good premises, I would be remembering that, instead. I’d probably have given the author at least two more books to see if they had learned how to convert a memorable moment into a memorable story.

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