The Battle, by R. W. Allen (5:18)

IOD-TheBattleToday I realize that without specific details, a story isn’t really a story – it’s just an outline waiting to be filled in.

What I gleaned about the story: Some kid is trapped in a cage, and he thinks to himself a lot about “good guys” and “enemies.”

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: My expectations were not very high for this, given that the cover is weak, the title is very generic, and the story begins with a prologue – none of which are auspicious signs. But still, you never know, so let’s take a look.

WTF #1, 2, and 3: Constant tell mode, shorn of all specific details.  

Analysis: If you’ve ever heard an 8-yr-old recounting their version of the Battle of Waterloo, you’ll have a sense for the style of the prose here. There were these guys, and they had a leader, and he was bad. And there were these other guys, who were good guys, and they had a good leader. And the good guys and the bad guys had a big battle. And mostly the bad guys died, so the good guys won.

I’m exaggerating the problem to make it easier to see my point, but in a nutshell, this style of writing gives too few details. And while the writing in this book did at least provide names for some of the characters, everything else is described in vague, general terms, including many, many references to, quite literally, “the good guys” and “the enemies.”

So this seems like a good place for me to point out the distinction between two jobs every fiction writer has to master: story-building, and story-telling. In the first case, the writer must make up a collection of characters and events, and then arrange them into a compelling story to be told. In the second case, he must weave words together to render that story into text, in a way that draws the reader into the events and allows him/her to live the experience vicariously through the page. Story building, and story telling.

I picked the Battle of Waterloo for my example above, because we all know that there’s a very dramatic and engaging story there. We know that it provides a sequence of events, characters and motives that has the potential to be a gripping tale. But as my example rendering showed, no matter how good the story is, the execution of the prose can still leave all that potential drama behind. They are two very distinct skills.

In the case of this book, I have no idea what story is being told, so I can’t comment on that part. But the story telling is nowhere near accomplished enough to be asking people to pay for it. And once again, these are the kinds of forays into self publishing that give indie books a black eye in the marketplace. Not because the author is still developing and needs more experience, but because the publisher is putting a price tag on somebody’s homework and hoping readers will pay for it.
Sand and Blood, by D. Moonfire (31:01)
Shard Knight, by Matthew Ballard (8:02)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.