Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I read the book because it was written by a friend. Not a close friend, but an author I’ve encountered online in various places. Don’t start thinking that this author is just another self-published author who frequents agent blogs and other websites, but has no talent. This author has an agent and the book was published by a traditional publisher. This author also does the conference circuit as a faculty member. The book itself had some editing problems and some echo problems. It had things that we should try to avoid, but stuff happens. No book is perfect and this book told a story. The book has plenty of blurbs by well-known authors on cover and if you were to read the book you wouldn’t be bored. But the author committed an unforgivable sin in storytelling. The story is forgettable.

I read another book by this author and it had the same problem. I read this book and I can’t say which is the most forgettable because I don’t remember much about what happened in the other book. A few weeks from now, I won’t be able to tell you much about what happened in either one. You can see where I’m going with this. No matter how well we craft a book, if the story is forgettable then it kills any chance that readers will mention the story later. Aside from guys like me who’re writing about forgettability, there’s just no reason to mention a forgettable story.

So why is the story forgettable? I really didn’t expect that I would find a published book that does this, but what makes it forgettable is that an ordinary character faces an ordinary problem. By an ordinary character, what I mean is that there’s nothing about the character’s life that we find particularly interesting. We have a pretty good idea what goes on in this person’s life because we either know someone who has a similar life or we’ve seen enough stories about this type of person to know what they’re like. Doctors, lawyers, waitresses, engineers, police officers, etc. are all ordinary. Circus performers, movie actors, homeless, spies, Indians, etc. aren’t ordinary. We must allow for some subjectivity, of course. Situations that are ordinary are things like financial problems, robbery, drive by shootings, kidnappings, identity theft, divorce, unless we dress them up in some way.

In the case of this story, we have a doctor (ordinary) who has her identity stolen (ordinary). But what could we do to dress it up a bit? Instead of a doctor, we could pick another person. Suppose the bearded lady has her identity stolen. Now things get more interesting. Who would want to pass themselves off as the bearded lady? Read the book and find out. Or what about an Indian chief? While he’s off smoking peace pipes, someone is impersonating him.

Or let’s stay with the doctor idea; we need a few good doctor stories, but we need to do something that isn’t just ordinary. We need something that will turn a doctor into a fish out of water. Maybe he marries a woman who believes in faith healing. Read a book like that and you probably won’t forget it.