How to Fail at Writing: Underwhelm the Reader

Writing is hard. Crafting a plot that delivers a punch is harder. You’ve heard me whine about how tough it is to think, let alone write. Is a tight plot really that important? Can’t I get by with producing something less than stellar?

Well, anything I produce will be less than stellar, that goes without saying! Still, after watching the movie Limitless, I am even more determined to chase after excellence. I will say again: A tightly-crafted plot is worth the work. Why bother to produce a book that will be read once and tossed aside?

Of course, with three sons doing the choosing we had to watch a sci-fi action movie. And I wanted to like Limitless, really I did. It’s about Eddie, an aspiring writer with a book contract, who suffers from writer’s block. (Talk about instant identification!) But his life changes dramatically when an old friend introduces him to NZT, a revolutionary new pharmaceutical that allows him to tap 100 percent of his brain’s potential. Wow! I cheered with him as he cranked out a novel in record time.

But the hyper-intelligent Eddie soon wants more. At this point the script becomes uneven and falters. Oh, there are thrills, chills, and chases aplenty—the film is visually captivating. But Eddie’s need for NZT overshadows everything. Somewhere along the way I quit rooting for him. Maybe it was because he was a fraud? And who wants to root for a drug abuser, anyway? I kept waiting for a point to the storyline, a message, a moral—anything! But the movie just kind of ended.

What? I’d invested almost two hours of my time, and that was it?

We’ve all read books like this, haven’t we? The author loses her way, the plot devices become increasingly improbable, the sweep-away magic is gone. And then comes the fatal moment when we realize that we no longer care. The story limps to a disappointing finish, and the book is tossed into the Goodwill bin. Sometimes with this grumbling comment: “Waste of good money.” Yikes.

It’s Presidents’ Day, and instead of teaching I’m buckled in to write. (Check the THB page under my name tonight if you’re interested). McGillvary is taking his wife to a shipboard ball, and for Elizabeth it’s an eye-opener.

I promise not to underwhelm you! (And Gayle has been pressuring me for ROMANCE.)

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18 thoughts on “How to Fail at Writing: Underwhelm the Reader

  1. Robin Helm

    Too, too true, Laura. I’d rather not write at all than to write something predictable and safe. I want people to remember what I’ve written. Sometimes, if I’m reading several stories at once, I get the plots confused. That’s because they are so alike. I don’t want to write like that, even if it’s well written. Brava, my friend!

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  2. Laura Hile Post author

    Gayle won’t let me get by without a sweep-away scene with McGillvary, so I’m doing my best to oblige. Once aboard ship, new aspects of his personality emerge—the edgier, harder side of his nature, that part of him that relishes risks and danger. Terribly attractive before marriage, that.

    But after? How will Elizabeth manage to tame him?

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  3. Susan Kaye

    For EE it will be finding out that what she thought was an even match between them is really a run away on his side of things.

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  4. chautona

    YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

    Oh, yes. This wasn’t about the new stuff… snort. Hee hee. I agree. Give the people something to do and make sure they find a way to do it!

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      I know, girlfriend.

      You’ve read my work, you know how I am. But readers love McGillvary, and they’re longing for Romance. Poor fellow, for all his bravado, he’s shy about showing his feelings. I can’t just dump him down in the drawing room, order him to kiss Elizabeth — who is shy as well — and expect Romance to sizzle. He needs the right setting, the right emotions in play. In other words, provocation.

      Gah, who’d a thought it of him, the swashbuckling Regency hero?

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  5. Gayle Mills

    At least, life with McGillvary will never be boring. Elizabeth is easily bored. I am looking forward to the marital romance, but I also love the snarky. I can’t wait to read Elizabeth’s take on being Mrs. McGillvary. She has such an inbred warped view of the world. The commonplace is for her, well, common. 🙂

    Did I tell you that I always picture McGillvary as a young Tom Selleck, dimples and all? Intelligent, handsome, dangerous, mysterious. Add a flash of fiery temper and a dash of Irish humor. Yes, he would be the very one to take on the challenge of Elizabeth Elliot.

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Gayle, NO. You don’t see Tom Selleck. Do you? Seriously? Ha! I can’t stand it. I just can’t.

      BECAUSE THAT’S EXACTLY HOW I PICTURE HIM!

      Tom Selleck. Yes siree, straight off the set of Magnum, P.I. In period clothes, but still. Ask Susan Kaye. She’ll back me up.

      *Laura rocks back on her heels, insufferably smug and pleased with herself* Well then. I must be doing something right.

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  6. Gayle Mills

    THAT’S HIM! The hair’s a little redder, but the dimples and green eyes and mustache and muscular build and devastating smile and rapier wit….

    Ah… such manly perfection. I pity the women who grew up having Tom Cruise as an iconic image.

    Yep, you’re good, Laura.

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  7. Susan Kaye

    The Poifect PaddyI like Tom, even my husband knows that, but I found this picture of a very young, unmustached Clark Gable. It’s from Mutiny on the Bounty, so even his hair is clubbed. Not sure who the girl is but we’ll say it’s his and Claire’s honeymoon pic. IMO, very nice and very Patrick.

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  8. Robin Helm

    But Clark Gable had really bad breath. NOOOO! Don’t do this to me! I want Tom Selleck to be the model. Looks aren’t worth much if his breath knocks you out.

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  9. LucyParker

    OMG! I’ve found my mothership! So many times I’ve envisioned Tom Selleck as a Regency hero, but have been afraid to go public.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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