Saturday, August 12, 2006

Stars in my eyes...

or What I Learned from Romantic Times Magazine

I got my copy of RT today, and I took it and a cold drink out on the patio and sat down to do some research. As I may have mentioned before, I feel I learn more from reading the Two Star and One Star reviews than I do from reading the Three, Four and Four 1/2 Star Reviews. Why? Well, we all know what makes a book a keeper, but what makes a book a stinker - or merely problematic - is a little harder to define and often based solely on the reviewer's opinion.

Sometimes a book just doesn't sit well with a reviewer. One may pan it while others rave about it and I'm sure that all the books in this month's RT that got low grades have been raved about in other venues. Remember, all these are published novels, most through NY houses, so an editor thought they were great, and in many cases a literary agent got behind the book, it's author, and it's concept in order to see it to publication - so where is the disconnect?

I thought I'd do some comparisons and I skimmed out the things I saw most often in the RT reviews. I made a short list of what appears to be the Do's and Don't's. This is what I found:

Books with Four 1/2, Four and Three Star reviews seemd to contain the following:

Simmering sexual tension
Intense emotion
Well defined, vivid, multi-faceted characters
Witty dialogue
Endearing heroines
Powerful love stories
Quick pacing
Powerful conflict

The books with Two and One star reviews seemed to have these drawbacks:

Formulaic plots
Forced action
Unbelievable characters
Frequent flashbacks
Whiny, unlikable heroines
Meandering plots
Slow pace
Stilted dialogue

You might say, well duh. And I'd have to agree. It seems elementary and of course, it's also subjective, but for what it's worth, this is what I found. Will it influence how I craft my stories in the future? Hell, yes. I'm going to be checking for these points and trying to make the best story I can, not to impress reviewers, but to give readers what they're looking for in a good book.


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