Taking Umbrage

Sounds like a new drug, eh? Ask your doctor if Umbrage is right for you.  No, umbrage is my reaction to having created a post and being told that publishing it was an invalid request! So now there’s a critic in my keyboard? Is there an app for that? I’m critical enough for both of us lately. Nit picking the authors of my library books is a new hobby. For example, I just slogged through a classic mystery, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. The wonderfully twisted plot almost gets lost in the overly detailed narration. Collins uses a number of points of view; some work well, some are like eating raw flour. So I confess to having skimmed Miss Clack’s monotonous ramble about her Christianity, even given that she’s so obviously unreliable. Four people die in the book, two of natural causes, one by suicide and one murdered–all off stage, so there’s not much gore. That’s good, because I can only imagine what anatomical detail I would have waded through. It would be like the nightly news, only more gruesome.

Another quibble that makes me drop the book onto the return pile before I get to the second chapter is a frantic, neurotic opening that throws a dozen characters into action in the first few pages. And the action is not about conflict but more about neurosis, every one of them saying “Look at me! Pick me! I want to be the protagonist.” I wonder what agent or editor stamped OK on that manuscript. Maybe the humidity is softening my brain, or I’m learning by the negatives. I do not intend to bore a reader into submission nor to throw a ticker tape parade of characters and twittery action at her/him before page ten. As for Word Press–keep your cotton-picking hands off my publish button.

Mostly I read for joy, for relaxation, but the more I struggle with writing a book that I’ll be happy to hand to a friend, the more often I see near-fatal flaws even in classics. And I tell myself not to make the mistakes that offend me in others. I also take comfort from realizing that no book is perfect and that all I can do is my best, and hope that my readers are not in the mood I’ve just described.

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