Monday, January 9, 2012

Candy Cane Books

Sweet Disappointment

by Carrie K Sorensen

Candy Canes
I just finished a YA novel that reminded me of a candy cane. Not because it was about Christmas, or because it was sweet, but because of the way I always eat candy canes.

When I eat a candy cane I always start with the long part, melting my way down until I have to work around the hook of the last bit. It always surprises me how fast it takes to get to the end of the candy cane. Then the hook, which was quite a bit smaller, goes even faster. It leaves me thinking I want more, even if I know I don't actually want more.

There are a lot of books out there just like candy canes. They're easy and sweet with just enough of a minty bite, not taking much work or effort to get through the beginning and end until the novel is almost done before you know it. Then they hook you at the end, making you work a little bit more as the story comes to a close and leaves you just engaged enough, and just curious enough to eagerly await the next book. They may not have built their suspense steadily along the way, but it's an interesting enough story with relatable enough characters that you want to know what happens next.

Candy cane books always leave me a bit disappointed at the end. I feel like nothing happened for so long while we were getting to know and love the characters, then too much conflict in too short a time so you're left feeling like you missed something major. Surely that couldn't be all of it? Surely there's something I missed? So I wait for the next book, hoping 'that something' is in there. I hope as the story continues the plot gets a bit thicker because I have admittedly invested myself in the characters.

The candy cane phenomenon isn't necessarily restricted to YA novels, but I notice it most in this genre. As I work toward getting published and read in YA, I hope this isn't because the younger readers want candy cane stories, but because of the luck of the draw in my reading selection. I don't want to write (and seriously hope I'm not writing) candy cane books. I want there to be thicker content throughout so the ending makes sense and isn't some sudden blow up of last minute realizations on the main character's part.

That being said, I can see the point of candy cane books. Even I enjoy them because of how quick and effortless a read they are. Sometimes you just want to read to get away, but you don't want to do the work involved with something that might have more mystery or drama. I suppose I may end up writing a book or two candy cane style. I'm just sure I don't want the majority of my books to be like that.

I figure staying away from a candy cane plot is an easy enough exercise. I just have to study my story and scene structures to make sure the action moves forward consistently (not necessarily at a steady pace, but at least never stagnant or back-pedaling). I think a good strategy would be to not focus so much on simply character building or having some kind of flashback into the back story, but to make sure both are explained along the way.

I'm thinking this may become another checklist, both on the planning and polishing end. Any other suggestions on how to keep a book from becoming too easy a read for such a checklist?

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