Monday, September 14, 2015

It's Damn Hard to Think of a New Idea

Just read a crime novel (Scandinavian) and it tread the same ground I find in all too many crime novels lately. A pedophilia is on the loose. Despite good writing and a bit of a twist it was all too familiar. An unpleasant subject really needs some exceptional writing and more than one twist to make it come alive for me. And a long denouement at the end, when the perpetrator gets to explain himself,
does not make ma any happier.

What topics are you tired of? Is it possible we have gone to the wells too many times and there is nothing new to mine?Remember those days of yore when finding the heist team was enough? Or proving someone did not commit suicide?

19 comments:

Scott Parker said...

Yup. There are lots of times I'll see a cool book cover, read the blurb, and already be bored. "Oh, that again?" And I pass. Yes, it's okay to spin a new twist on the same story idea, but (a) as an author, it's really hard to find the new twist and (b) as a reader, it all appears to be the same...

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Serial killers
"Unreliable narrators"
"The new GONE GIRL" (or whatever)
Giant secret conspiracies to rule/destroy the world

Jeff M.

George said...

Bad pastiches of Sherlock Holmes.
Someone else writing "like" Robert Parker, Agatha Christie, Nero Wolfe, Robert Ludlum, Ian Fleming, etc.

Margot Kinberg said...

The truth is, I don't think there are all that many credible motives for murders. There are, though, all sorts of interesting character possibilities. Same goes for things like setting. And in my opinion, each author can use her or his own voice. That said though, please, oh please - no more serial killers!!!

Deb said...

Psychotic super villains are my least favorite. I avoid those altogether. Also any book where a lone "maverick" is out to expose a conspiracy that "goes all the way to the White House." But these are easy books to identify and avoid, it's books that appear to have interesting and new ways of telling the story that will disappoint when they resort to cliche and hackneyed tricks.

Give me a murder, a closed group of suspects--each with motive, means, and opportunity, a dogged investigator, and some plausible red herrings, and I say forget about reinventing the wheel, just give me the best wheel you can.

pattinase (abbott) said...

What Margot said pretty well sums it up for me. In this book, she gives this guy the last thirty pages to explain himself. And truly we have heard all of it before.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

A friend of ours once said "never read a book with a swastika on the cover" and that proved generally true, as neo-Nazis once ruled the thriller world in the pre-Da Vinci Code days.

Jeff M.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I am sick of the pedophile explaining himself books as well as let's all go wallow in the supposed mind mind of the serial killer books.

Ed Gorman said...

I get burned out more and more both as writer and reader. I watch screwball comedies and film noirs, For reading I go to everybody from Fitzgerald to Zola to Crane. I can't read any of those bloated serial killer books you mention. Blah blah blah. I'm still delighted when I come across a sweet little mystery with some style and soul.

Mathew Paust said...

Got to wonder if the culprit for all those tired clones is the same one responsible for all the tired clones that come from Hollywood. Agents and editors want commercial success. They want whatever is already selling, relying on the market to tell them when it's time to try something different. But the only way I see that happening is when some brave agent or editor sticks his or her neck out and pushes something different into the market stream.

These days the impetus can come from the author him/herself, starting with a blog and developing a base of fans who will care enough to post so many "reviews" on Amazon the mainstream folks can't help but take a look. The Martian, by Andy Weir, is a good example, as is (holding my nose now) that one about the Shades of S&M for Church Ladies.

Of course there are always jackals more than willing to game any system for kicks or cash. Here's an example of such a disease infecting the "review" endorsements: https://twitter.com/AmazonReviews6

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Here is that link.

Not surprised this is going on.

Jeff M.

Fred Zackel said...

Dead children and children going missing. There is a glut of both at my library.

Dana King said...

I had a lot of good answers, all of which have been taken, and expressed better than I would have.

So, damn.

Charles Gramlich said...

I find myself passing up quite a bit of stuff like this that is new and reading more stuff like that which is older. At least it was closer to the time when it was new

Richard R. said...

I agree, there are so many themes, criminals, crimes that are repeated to the point of being tiresome. However, what if that is the first book of it's kind a person picks up? Then it's not tiresome at all. So for those new readers, it's all fine.

There are also a lot, really, really, a lot, of people who find something they enjoy and all they want is more of the same. How else explain the popularity of many ongoing series, which would otherwise have grown tired? Serial killers were mentioned by nearly everyone up above there, but lots of people, including my wife, like the hunt for the serial killer, and the finish, even if the bad guy gets away to appear in the next book. If it's well written, it's probably okay. Sure we all get tired of certain plots, but that just means we can find new ones.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Kevin, my wife agrees with you. She said she skips those chapters.

She also avoids books that are recommended by book clubs. When she retired she decided to devote herself to fun reading, someone who can tell a good story, rather than something like an assignment.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Fred-I am sure you know this but Ross Macdonald ( in the new book about the letters between Eudora Welty and he-MEANWHILE WE HAVE LETTERS) mentions you as a writer he really likes. I was so proud to think I knew you (if only a little).

Cap'n Bob said...

Serial killers, medical thrillers, legal thrillers, females with male names, burned out cops, old lady amateur sleuths, young lady amateur sleuths, middle-aged lady amateur sleuths, alcoholic detectives, and bloated books a la Lee Child.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

There are only a few topics, plus endless variables. Thanks to technology, in which most anyone can become a novelist, these are exhausted and fragmented. I see no prospect for renewal. I think we're in for a long arid period, lasting for generations, caused in part by social forces that wreck literature. The coarsening of fiction (and manners and values) erodes freshness and meaning. I am not optimistic. I am glad I wrote when I did, in a time of mutually shared ideals. When renewal comes, it will not be on the shoulders of new topics, but new perceptions of human nature and human potential.