Friday, February 15, 2013

Predictability: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I've been whining about books that are predictable lately and so, in an effort to defend myself, and to blog more, I offer this post.

Predictability in a book. Yes, it happens and usually depends on the reader. Some people are great at seeing that shocking twist long before it happens and others...not so much. Why some people are great at this and what type of person is better is not the subject of my post so let's not go there. I just want to talk about when predictability is good and when it's bad...and when it's just plain ugly.

(All these opinions are simply my own and should not be taken too seriously)


The Good
Yep, I have examples and everything. ;) Some books aren't kidding themselves. They don't try to pretend they are so dang mysterious that you'll never see that twist ending coming. If it's obvious??? Who cares. Your're usually so invested in the characters that you really don't care. And speaking of characters: When predictability is done right, the characters aren't complete morons. Meaning you're not screaming at them for being so dang stupid! Rather than ramble on and on, I suggest you read this lovely book here for a better understanding on what I'm saying. If you haven't already.



The Bad
 Uh, yeah, remember that yelling at the characters thing? I can't tell you how many times I rolled my eyes, slapped my forehead, and screamed at these characters. Well, mainly I screamed at the author. The characters were so badly written I didn't have the heart to yell at them. It's not their fault they're so freaking stupid. Books that flounce around pretending they're so complex and suspenseful and that you, the reader, will never guess what's going to happen next...Well, they're about as obvious as they claim NOT to be.




The Ugly
Yeah, and then there's the books where absolutely nothing happens! It gets so bad you start making up all this crap in your head where the story COULD go just to spice things up. But does it ever happen? No! You read hundreds of pages and then just sit there staring at the book thinking, what the hell? Where's the story?! Nothing happened! There was nothing TO predict!






So, what's your opinion? Have you ever noticed the difference between the good and bad of predictability in book, or do you actually have a life? ;)  

33 comments:

  1. I love that you put Watership Down in the ugly category. My parents both love this book but I had to read it for school and found it so boring.

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    1. It was horrible, right?! So freaking boring!

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  2. I think all stories are predictable to some degree -- I mean, you know you're going to get a more-or-less happy ending, you know the main characters are going to get together, you know the murder's going to get solved, etc. -- but a good story is all about how you GET to that happy ending, you know? CINDER's a great example for good predictability. It also offers the solution to combating a predictable storyline -- interesting, sympathetic characters who push the plot along by doing risky and exciting things. That's what makes it such a fun book :)

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    1. The journey is the most important part. Agreed.

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  3. LOL! This post made me laugh. I completely agree though, and I loved Cinder!

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    1. Cinder was awesome! I need to get the second book.

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  4. I find that I have an erratic track record of predicting what happens in books. Some books I can totally see it coming, even when others are like "wow, surprise!" Other books that people find predictable, I am completely caught off guard. Guess it depends on...something I haven't figured out yet :) But, I'm glad there are some books I haven't found too predictable, since that might make my reading more boring.

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    1. Yeah, seeing everything coming is just plain boring. That's why it needs to be done right...if you're going to be predictable. I prefer the surprise but it doesn't happen often. :(

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  5. I can predict what happens in some books and not in others. Sometimes, I like seeing if I'm on the same page as the author/characters. Like with Harry Potter. I loved seeing if my predictions came true. So, I'd put that in the good category for me. When I read Ender's Game, it was just annoying, so I'd put that in the bad category, even though I did mildly enjoy the book. I don't have any ugly books because usually when I find a book ugly, I don't care enough about it to predict anything.

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    1. I forgot you were right there with me on Ender's Game. Ugh, such a stupid book!

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  6. I am hands down the worst at predicting what happens in a book. I think when it's a good book I tend to forget about trying to work out what happens and I just read. It's when I truly dislike a book that I start to see all the glaring faults and try to pick it apart!

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    1. Yeah, I totally agree with you. If it's horribly written or just plain awful I'll tear it to pieces.

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  7. Yes! Predictability can be good if it adds tension instead of eyerolls. I shall never read watership down.

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  8. I am quite possibly the worlds worst predictor. Seriously they could all but spell it out in a book and I will miss it.

    There are a lot of times I will say "I didn't care that it was predictable" but I would agree that I have to like the characters or I will become annoyed with the book.

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    1. Yeah, good characters make or break a book more often than not.

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  9. Great post! I'm horrible at predicting things (unless an author hits us over the head with it) and would rather just get caught up in the story. Have never read Watership Down, but think I'll take a pass since nothing happens. I need SOMETHING to happen to make a book worth reading!

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    1. See, and far too often I feel like the author is hitting us over the head with it. But they think they're being sneaky. So annoying!

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  10. As you know, I don't have a problem with predictability! Either I never see things coming, or if I do, I don't care. Or something like that.

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    1. Oh, you do too see things coming. But, yes, you are far more forgiving than me.

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  11. I agree that if you know a book is going to be predictable you don't worry about it as much. It's when they have twists and turns and make a huge deal about mystery when predictability become a let down.

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    1. Agreed. You just said that so much better than I did. Well done!

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  12. Ha! I love this post. I am usually in the category of "figures nothing out before it happens." But lately, I'm either becoming a more sophisticated reader, or I've been reading some really predictable books. And predictable in that bad way that make it so I don't want to read the book any more. All of these offenders have been YA books, most of them dystopian, so I'm going to take a break from those for a while to see if it's me or them.

    As for the books where predictability is not an issue, my favorite example is THE BOOK THIEF. The narrator tells you repeatedly what is going to happen, but it's the finding out HOW it happens that really moves the book along.

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    1. Oh, The Book Thief! That is indeed a perfect example. Should have used it instead.

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  13. Great post, Jenny! I am actually one of those readers that has a hard time figuring out what's going to happen next. I'm pretty good at identifying elements that are going to play a large roll later on, but that's it. That being said, predictibility doesn't bother me so much. There are certain things I expect in the pulp fiction I read, and I like it when writers deliver.

    On a side note, I am excited to see you liked Cinder. I need to check that book out!

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    1. I find the more I read the better I get at predicting. Or maybe it's all the mysteries I used to read.

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  14. I love those books that are so well written you don't care if you've figured it out because you're enjoying the ride so much. I'm not great at predicting things (with a few exceptions, and then I always KNOW it's obvious if I've figured it out lol), and if I can't figure it out I don't try because I like to be surprised. Luckily I haven't read too many books that I know what's going to happen right from the get-go, but I end up yelling at the characters (or author) then too.

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    1. I used to read mysteries all the time and got in the horrible habit of trying to figure the mystery out before the characters did. It does not help my reading nowadays.

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  15. +JMJ+

    Believe it or not, my problem with Across the Universe was NOT the predictability! =P I'm actually kind of good at being surprised by "obvious" endings, because I like being surprised more than I like correctly guessing the outcome in advance.

    But the one guess I got wrong when reading Across the Universe was what the third cause of discord would turn out to be. I actually thought that Eldest would say that discord is caused by differences, lack of a central leader, and . . . love! ROFL!!!

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    1. Lol! Yeah, I though the same thing. I would have rolled my eyes big time!

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  16. LOL love this! I like to think of myself as knowing what's going to happen ahead of time, and I love it when I'm wrong. But I'm right a lot. :) I think the biggest problem with a predictable book is that it's BORING. In fact, when I use the word predictable in a review, it's my nice way of saying boring.

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    1. Very boring and eye roll inducing!

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  17. I totally didn't see the end of Across the Universe coming...and I'm generally pretty good at picking out predictable outcomes! Maybe I was off my game that day when I read it.... Great post idea though!

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