Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Three Mistakes Authors Make

 First of all, let me say that I am not an author. I have great respect for anyone with the discipline and dedication to sit down and write out their ideas into a full-length novel or even a full-length series. However, nobody's perfect, and there are a few common mistakes authors make that I want to address.

1. Letting a series go on past its expiration date

The culprits: Sookie Stackhouse, Anita Blake

An author should always know when it's time for a series to die. Once it gets past that point, plots become absurd, motivations are murky at best, and the author has to introduce ridiculous plot devices just for something new. When a series has crashed and burned, then crashed again somehow in Antarctica and died a slow death of frostbite, leaving behind a very nasty corpse, it's probably a sign that it should have stopped at that red light earlier. And I may have gone a little too far with that metaphor, but you get the point. Series should end when they end, not be reanimated only to wander around looking for brains to eat.

Success stories: Vampire Academy, Georgina Kincaid, Fever, pretty much any trilogy or stand alone

2. Lack of balance in worldbuilding

The culprits: Chicagoland Vampires, Harry Potter

Everyone knows the whole power equals responsibility thing. What a few people appear to have missed is that power comes at a price. The first law of thermodynamics applies just as much in the magical world as it does in ours: you don't get something from nothing. Whether the cost of magic is personal energy or sacrifice or tattooing your eyelids, it has to exist somehow. The same goes for supernatural creatures; they can't have great strengths without great weaknesses.

Success stories: Mercy Thompson, Women of the Otherworld, Vampire Academy, Wicked Lovely

3. Treating death as reversible

The culprits: Buffy, Night Huntress

Death is a real thing that shouldn't be cheapened by rampant resurrection. Bringing characters back from the dead is generally bad form (though there are a few cases I'll give you, so this isn't a totally clear issue). But on the whole, authors don't kill characters just because, and bringing them back makes their sacrifice much less meaningful. Death defines life. Without it, life is just an eternal existence (and read Tide Lords to see how that goes).

Success stories: The Hunger Games, Harry Potter

That's all for now! What do you hate to see in a book?


  1. Completely agree with all of these, Kate... ESPECIALLY reversible death. I can think of a precious FEW exceptions to this rule, but 9 times out of 10 this kind of stunt cheapens the entire series for me :/

  2. Yeah, now that I think about it, the (two) exceptions I was thinking of were more...um...misunderstandings or mistakes than actual deaths. I know you've read both of them but I won't list them here because, obviously, spoilers.


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