This post may be egotistical at times, but it wasn’t meant to be. It may even be snooty, but again, it wasn’t meant to be. I’m thinking aloud.
A not-so-recent Facebook comment on David Morrell’s page (which I’ve saved) made me think about what I read more than I think about what I read. For reference, the comment was this:
“The Tor editor and I discussed a number of situations in thrillers that are looking repetitive. One–the serial killer novel–is its own sub genre and somehow keeps going. Then there’s the really really really bad Muslim terrorist being hunted by the dysfunctional CIA agent who has a marriage problem, a drinking problem, or an anti-authority problem. Also the long-lost secret in ancient history, the discovery of which affects the fate of the modern world. And the wandering vigilante. It’s my view that some writers are entering the thriller world because it’s hot right now and they’re following the trend, always a mistake.”
I don’t want to sound like a snob and say I don’t like thrillers as mentioned above. Much of my recent reading can be categorized as one of the above books, especially the “long-lost secret in ancient history.” If I break down my list of books I’ve read since January, six of those 22 books deal with a long-lost secret. Of the rest: four of the books have been nonfiction, three deal with monsters chased by an FBI agent (who has problems, but not those mentioned above), seven might be considered “classics” of the 20th century (mostly Ray Bradbury), one was a “tween” book (okay, I admit–I read one), and the rest are just good reads.
It’s when I walk through the bookstore that I find Mr. Morrell’s statement even more to the point: the shelves are filled with the same material, like a repetitive stream of wannabe’s and has-beens.
Many different people who write about writing say it doesn’t matter if your plot is the same–it’s how you deliver that plot which makes a difference. There is nothing new under the sun, or so they say. I don’t know if that’s true, nor am I going to debate such statements. However, the plethora of stories about long-lost secrets stumbled across by drunk ex-CIA agents who turn into wandering vigilantes is growing in number–in part thanks to Dan Brown, Clive Cussler and–yes–David Morrell. (I know these writers weren’t the first, but their 20+ million sales certainly brought the lost-secret plot into the mainstream with a vengeance.)
It’s enough to make you wonder if the publishing industry really cares about substance or if they’re just out for the bottom line.
I know they’re out for the bottom line. That’s not the point here.
When I read, I honestly do so for entertainment. Thrillers are fun. Long-lost secrets are engaging. However, I also read for style, to broaden my horizon of plots and ideas, and–because I am nice–to support those writers I have found to be special.
Unfortunately, what the corporate publishers expect–what they want, what drives their sales, what they demand–is for me (as a reader) to shut up and read what’s hot at the moment. To a corporate publisher, I don’t have a brain. It’s almost like the government control of media–sit down and we will feed you only what we want you to know. It’s sickening, really, and makes me want to explore the real long-lost secrets of novels that didn’t fit within their strict sales model.
I was hoping the advent of the Indie publishing movement would change that expectation.
My answer is “it’ll take time.” Right now, there are far too many Indie authors succumbing to the same popular themes, tired plots and worn out worlds that make corporate publishers rich. A look through the virtual shelves at Indie publishing houses like Smashwords reveals any number of plots about the drunk ex-CIA agent who finds the treasure and saves the world . . . or vampires.
Is there something wrong with that?
No. Honestly, we’re told to write what we want to read, and what we want to read is often exactly what we’re made to read.
It’s a circle.
As a writer who dabbles in the paranormal, pseudo-sciences, psychological horror, fantasy and magical realism, I won’t say that my plots shy away from those currently on the shelves, those known to make money.
I am no different. I am not special.
That won’t stop me from trying to be different, however, even if that means I don’t spit out novels at a Clive Cussler pace.