Friday, January 13, 2012

LDS Fiction--Good, Bad, or Ho Hum

It's been a while since I last blogged.  Even though I got my flu shot last September, I came down with a rip roaring case of the flu last week, then I've been reading Whitney nominees. (I have two and a half books to go!) There are twenty-five entries in the category I've been asked to read and they haven't been as much fun as in other years.  Only about twenty percent merit consideration for any kind of award.  Far too many are unedited or sloppily edited and the writers, many of whom show great potential, need to study the elements of story-telling.  A lesson in proof reading and word usage wouldn't hurt either for some. 

Some of the things I've found annoying in this year's crop of nominees are crude or dirty language, absurd and far too many comparisons using like or as, unlikable protagonists, shoddy research, an assumption the reader is too stupid to read between the lines of what really goes on when two people without religious convictions share a living space, stupid, unrealistic heroines, weird unpronounceable names, turning relationships into game playing, poor word choices ("turn on the sink" Really?), boring middles where nothing happens, and unappealing, tedious beginnings. 

Okay, that's enough complaining about the poor entries.  It's the half dozen or so at the top that keep me from throwing up my hands and saying, "I quit."  The authors of these books renew my faith in LDS fiction.  They're clever, they touch the heart, they understand creating a fiction arc, they make it almost impossible for a reader to set down their books.  Their characters are so real the reader feels he/she has a new friend.  Some made me laugh, some impressed me with their use of words, a couple brought a tear or two, and at the conclusion of each I was glad I had the experience of reading that particular book. 

Overall, I'd say there are some truly talented authors in today's LDS fiction market.  There is also a large number of potentially great authors if they'll take the time to study their craft and improve their skills.  I'm well aware writers and critics look carefully at each other's writing and we help each other a lot by pointing out flaws and weaknesses as well as applauding a job well done.  The Whitney Awards were designed to showcase LDS writers, who in the eyes of their contemporaries, have written something exceptional. To some extent writers learn if they're doing something right when they get their royalty checks, but readers might be surprised how much writers appreciate feedback from readers in the form of letters, emails, and blog comments. 

As a Whitney judge, I don't think it would be ethical to list my favorite LDS novels, but I challenge readers of this blog to list in the comment trail which novels you found the most memorable in 2011.  It would be interesting, too, to share the things that annoy you about LDS fiction and which things you like most.

8 comments:

Roseanne's Spot said...

I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to read all the books in the category you're judging. There are many good LDS writers, and I'd be hard-pressed to choose a particular one. Loraine Scott's cozy murder mysteries are fun reads. I also really liked Abel Keogh's book, THE THIRD. It was well written and creative.

Amy Williams said...

the most memorable lds-fiction stories i have read involve my favorite lds subject, family history. i love the roots series by gg vandegriff and eyes like mine by julie wright...regular people learning extraordinary things about themselves through their history.

Melanie Jacobson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Runaway Bridal Planner said...

This year was a tough one for me and LDS fiction. To be honest, other than a few great books from authors I already enjoy. For the first time in years became a little turned away from it and going to other area's to read. Because of that I have found that even as an adult, I really enjoy (some) of the YA out in the market right now:)
Reason's I have been turned away. I felt like I was reading new novels that appeared far too similar to others I have read in the past.
The other thing, I love to read a clean uplifting novel... But I HATE to feel like I have just read a novel full of preaching and Sunday school lessons. I doubt many non-LDS read LDS fiction, so (in my opinion) I don't think the writer needs to be so concerned about pointing out all the gospel principles and preaching. Just sweep me away into a great story, that keeps me up turning pages well into the night!

Mindi said...

I am not able to read a much LDS fiction now that I am back in the midwest, but I love a good story and good characters. I love Sarah Eden, Kerry Blair, you and several others because you manage to combine both in your books. I had one favorite author whose first book was so good that I kept buying books for a very long time, hoping for another book as good as that first one. Some of them came close and I really enjoyed them, but I quit buying books by that author once I realized that each book was letting me down with trite story lines that were so predictable. I know romances are boy meets girl, they fall in love, have some obstacle they overcome, and they get together. Just make it interesting. Please. Ok, enough - that was probably more than you wanted! :-)

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Honestly, I think there were so many great suspense books out this year that I would be hard-pressed to pick one favorite in that category. Yours, Gregg Luke, Stephanie Black, and Josi Kilpack were all amazing, and I thought Melanie Jacobson and Sarah Eden were also exceptional. I really could go on and on and am so glad to have LDS fiction that keeps me engaged with great storytelling in almost any genre I could ever want to read. :)

taylorfamily83316 said...

I have only read a few LDS authors, and can count just how many on one hand. Of course, your books are at the top of my list and I have many of them. I enjoy that you display the LDS values in your books, and mention Church functions and meetings, and describe them, but just enough. This, allows me to recommend your books to Non-Members, some of whom have mentioned that they will continue to read your books, and the others have at least enjoyed the book that I recommended. I was not familiar with much LDS fiction prior to reading your books, and meeting you years ago, and not much has changed there. But, I like others have a difficult time paying for books that I will not enjoy thoroughly, and therefore have a tendency to stick with what I know and feel comfortable with. That is why I love to read honest reviews, and appreciate the candor about them.

Anonymous said...

What category are you judging?