Predictability in Fiction

I often say that readers are entitled to their preferences and what they choose to read or not to read. So, even though I write some romance, I don’t think all readers should prefer that genre just because it’s something I write.

Even so, I was prompted to write this blog post because I often hear fellow readers say things like, “I don’t read romance because it’s predictable. You already know the guy and girl are going to end up together.”

True, you already know that fact beforehand, but predictable outcomes aren’t exactly exclusive to the romance genre. Besides, I think there’s a difference between a predictable outcome and a predictable story. I appreciate it when an author can weave originality and unpredictability together on the way to what may be a predictable outcome.

For instance, if you read an adventure or literary novel called Wreck of the Seafaring Vessel, you already know beforehand that the ship is going to wreck. But when the author can make you CARE about the fact that the ship will wreck, can make you wish that it wouldn’t wreck even though you already know it’s going to (or can ironically make you GLAD that the ship will wreck, even though you never thought you’d feel that way), can help you to deeply empathize with the complex characters on the ship through their backstories and emotions and motives–then you get something fresh, thought-provoking, and memorable out of the novel. The outcome, or an aspect of the outcome, is predictable, but overall, it isn’t a predictable story.

I look for the same thing in romance. I know the outcome, or an aspect of the outcome, but I want something fresh and thought-provoking along the way.

As far as predictability goes, much the same can be said for many suspense, thriller, and mystery novels, where readers especially like to be surprised. Before you even start the book, you pretty much know the major aspect of the outcome: the good guy is going to catch or put a stop to the bad guy, solve the murder case, prevent the enemy operation from blowing up the ocean, or what have you. In, say, 999 books out of 1,000, no matter how many thrilling car chases there are, how many kidnappers set out to blindfold and tie people up, or how many airplanes spontaneously combust in the sky, you already know that none of those dangers are going to kill the protagonist right smack in the middle of the novel. But when I read a thriller or a suspense or mystery novel, it doesn’t matter if I already know the protagonist will indeed make it out of the burning plane alive and the antagonist will inevitably get caught. I just want something fresh and thought-provoking on the way to seeing the inevitable take place. A predictable outcome, but not a predictable story.

Again, if romance simply isn’t your thing, then it simply isn’t your thing. Nothing wrong with that. But if you’ve considered predictability alone to be the issue, then perhaps it’s had more to do with the overall style or storytelling in the romances you’ve read, and less to do with the inevitable outcomes. Perhaps it’s had more to do with particular books or authors, and whether or not those were the right books and authors for you, and less to do with the romance genre as a whole.

I believe it’s just as possible to write a fresh and unpredictable romance as it is to write a fresh and unpredictable suspense or mystery novel, since it’s not merely about what happens in the end (the guy and girl get together, the detective wins and the murderer loses, etc.) It’s about the journey or process toward that outcome.

Does that make sense? 🙂

 

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Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Ian is a young attorney with bills piling up at his law practice and a mother dealing with early Alzheimer’s. A new case involving a nine-million-dollar trust fund, and an incredibly high lawyer’s payout, may be just what Ian needs. But as the case pulls him into a mystery involving a major unsolved crime from decades ago, his career—and his life—are put on the line in Fatal Trust, a legal thriller by author Todd M. Johnson.

I’ll admit this is one of those times when it’s not easy for me to explain why I enjoyed a book as much as I ultimately did.

The story wasn’t a gripping page-turner for me, though it did pick up more than halfway through. I didn’t make much of a connection with the characters, and Ian bordered on being too weak to me, not knowing what to do with himself in various areas. (It was nice when he’d finally show a little fire, even if it stemmed from anger.) And while I appreciate twists in a thriller, this one almost started to feel too twisty. With such a mix of different schemes and characters’ motives coming to light, it was hard to maintain a sense of the purpose(s) of it all.

Nevertheless, the story was interesting enough to keep me curious, and, yes, I enjoyed seeing how it would turn out. Aside from its Christian publisher, I wasn’t sure why it’s Christian Fiction, but as the story ends with room for more problems, there’s room for a sequel. I find that sometimes the overall moral of a story isn’t contained in just one novel.

 

Fault Lines by Thomas Locke

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Fault Lines by Thomas Locke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

“If you run from a lifetime chance just because the price is high, you’ll drown in shadows or cynicism or both. You grab hold with both hands. And you get ready for the fight of your life.”

Charlie Hazard, a security expert, has little idea what he may be in for when he joins a secret psychological project at the request of Dr. Gabriella Speciale. The project could have untold implications on human consciousness itself, but a conspiracy against the project could mean deadly consequences in Fault Lines, a novel by author Thomas Locke.

Before reading this book, it took me a while to figure out that it’s the entirety of the story that began in Double Edge, the prequel short to the Fault Lines techno-thriller series. I figure that Fault Lines, as a prequel novel, must read differently to those who’ve already read the series. In my case, the prequel has certainly whet my appetite for the next novel.

I won’t pretend that I totally followed what was going on from the get-go. I had to be patient, which wasn’t hard because I trust this author. (Davis Bunn, really—one of my longtime ChristFic faves, who’s got a batch of novels under his Locke pseudonym.) My patience was rewarded excellently with this well-woven storyline full of intrigue, danger, and a mix of human connection and disconnect. I can’t say that I got too attached to the core characters (well, maybe to one and a half of them), but the extent to which the story got my mental wheels turning makes up for that.

I’m looking forward to going further into this still-new-to-me techno-thriller realm.

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Fault Lines (and its. well, introduction, Double Edge) is the prequel to the Fault Lines series.

  

 

No Pit So Deep by James Nathaniel Miller II

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Online Book Club provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

No Pit So Deep: The Cody Musket Story, Book 1 by James Nathaniel Miller II

Christian Thriller

An attack on Brandi Barnes, a journalist, brings Cody Musket, a star athlete and former Medal of Honor winner, into her path–and love may become their greatest weapon to combat the darkness. This first book in the Cody Musket series brings thrilling action, stirring human connection, and a multicultural cast of characters. With themes ranging from human trafficking, racism, and military veterans dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, this novel is sure to reach fans of ChristFic thrillers and romantic suspense.

Officially reviewed at OnlineBookClub.org with 3 out of 4 stars. Take a look!

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Note to my blog readers: though it’s not out of keeping with this book’s gritty subject matter, it contains a bit of language I wouldn’t use.