Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chillin' & Grillin'

It's Sunday evening. A long day of driving is over, the thunderstorms have passed and I'm sitting out in my screened-in porch (call it a 3 seasons room) watching bratwurst sizzle on the grill while Spoon beats out an alternative tune on my stereo. My mind just returned to a novel I just picked up after a long wait in my to be read pile. Since this novel is by an author I know and like, I'll not mention names to protect the not-so-innocent.

The novel starts out like a good suspense should. Heavy on the action. In fact it starts with a woman in the hands of a killer. The writing is explicit. Details honed to a fine edge. It's like being a voyeur peeking through a thin slit in the blinds.

Excuse me a second while I grab my tongs, slide open the screen door and flip my brats.

Thanks for waiting. Now back to that first chapter.

The story begins with a woman jogging in the park. As she turns into a wooded area, she hears footsteps behind her and quickens her pace. The author finely crafts the scene, making you feel the trepidation of the woman as her instincts tell her something is wrong... Something bad is about to happen.

I'm completely drawn in. I'm hooked. This is going to be a great read.

EXCEPT! As the knife is about to plunge into the terrified woman, she wakes from a dream.


I felt like I had been sucker punched. Great action with details woven in that surely come into play through the rest of the novel and I want to throw it against the wall. Yes, I feel like I've been cheated. My mind snaps back to that prime time soap opera Dallas and the 1985/86 "DREAM" season when Bobby Ewing died.

I remember how cheated I felt then, and I feel no less cheated now. Maybe being a writer has made me too critical a reader, but I just feel like sometimes authors take the easy way out. Someone as talented as the author in question shouldn't have to resort to gimmicks to start a novel with a bang. Of course, maybe the dream is intended to be part of the story, but at this point, I'm not sure I'll pick the damn thing back up.

I need to sauce up my brats with a little Sweet Baby Ray's, so I ask you what you think? Cheating or not?


Joyce said...

For starters, bratwurst should never be served with anything other than sauerkraut, or if you're a wimp-- grilled onions. A true German food connoisseur would NEVER put barbecue sauce on a sausage!!! Ack!!!

I was always told it was a big no-no to begin a book with a dream. I think I'd throw the book against the wall, too.

As a sure sign I'm right about the bratwurst, my word verification is "prosi." Short for "prosit" as in "Ein Prosit."

Pat Remick said...

I suppose you can dream... that there will be more dreams to legitimize this one? (My rule is always try to be optimistic at the beginning of the week...)

I'm not sure I consider that as bad as those authors who take on you on a wild ride only to have the killer be someone who never appears until the last chapter... now that's what I consider cheating!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Pat, something I forgot to add. Maybe I feel so cheated because of the fine detail. Here's my thought process. I don't dream in fine detail. If I remember my dreams, there isn't the sense of reality that I feel when I'm awake.

I read this opening scene and there's no hint, no clue that we're reading a dream sequence. The feel of the writing was too real and that's a big reason I felt cheated. If you're going to write a dream, there should be clues.

BTW Joyce, I have my brats with sauerkraut, but these were for the wife and daughters. My instructions were clear and as always, I NEVER question the wife.

Joyce said...

Smart move, Will. Never question the wife. We have a plaque in our sunroom that reads, "A man's home is his castle until the Queen arrives."

Jennie Bentley said...

Cheating. And I've also been told never to open a book with a dream. Sure, I'd be tempted to stop reading. Except, if the writing truly was that fantastic, I'd probably give it another chance.

Dana King said...

I'd have to keep reading to see if the author justified himself, but he'd have to clear a hurdle to convince me he hadn't cheated.

You boiled the brats in beer for 25 minutes first, right? Adding barbecue sauce to that is like painting over mahogany walls. It may be too late to save your wife, but you owe it to your daughter to at least try.

Alan Orloff said...

Cheating, definitely.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Dana, what a waste of beer. Just kidding of course. There are actually some beers that would make them taste worse. Actually, part of the Chillin' included sipping a Dunkel Weisse.

Alan & Jennie. I agree, BUT, I'll probably spackle the wall that I threw the book at and read the next chapter. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

queenofmean said...

It's hard to say on that one. I guess you'll have to read to find the purpose (if there is one) for the dream. Is the author trying to show that she has a phobia about being attacked or maybe she feels threatened by someone? Something that might show up in her dreams? I'd probably read on esp. if it were an author I normally like. Now if the whole thing didn't play out in the end, I'd want to scream 'cheater'.

Patg said...

I dislike dreams in books unless they have something about them that affects the story as a whole.
That said, generally they are a cheat.
You shouldn't be eating bratwurst no matter how it's cooked. It isn't good for you. Bad fat!
So said by someone who would love to chow down on some right now, but can't, shouldn't, doesn't.
My verification word is psysib.
Witchy, witchy, who wants to be my psysib?

Annette said...

As a mostly vegetarian, I'm staying out of the brat fray.

You're right, Will. Dreams are funky. Mine jump from place to place and one face morphs into another. There should have been some clue.

My all time biggest book-against-wall moment came at the END of a book, though. The first person narrator announced in the final chapter that he was the killer...right before he died. The End. MAJOR CHEAT!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Patg, Good fat, bad fat, it's all the same -- YUMMY!

That's why bacon makes everything taste better.

Queen, I'll probably read on, but one more thing and I'm out.

Annette, my point exactly. Dreams don't come across crystal clear like the writing was.