Plot Holes?

Have you ever read The Hunger Games? If so, consider this: why would Panem, a nation that seems to purposefully keep its populace living in concentration-camp-like conditions, provide what appears to be a marvelous education (complete with extracurricular activities and music lessons)to its youth? Notice the question word: why?

Within a suspiciously short time, I got nearly identical reviews on Ice that asked why was the pool never drained? Why did the drug lord wait so long to act? Why would a person with no history of violence act out such a complex plan of revenge?

I’m not complaining. I’ll take any reviews I can get. I also respect all readers right to their opinions and I think asking why is healthy. But it did get me thinking: where do we draw the line between plot holes and taking fictional liberties?

Plot holes are a lack of continuity within a story, either in a novel or between series. Here is an example from one of my favorite writers, Mrs. Isabel Allende. In Daughter of Fortune, one of the characters, Pauline del Valle, was pregnant with her fourth child towards the end of the novel. In its sequel, A Portrait in Sepia, thirty years later Pauline only has three children and it specifically states that she had been pregnant three times. What happened to the fourth child? A plot hole can also occur when a writer slacks off and creates a situation that is completely unbelievable; that is, something that cannot be explained at all. Even though they may not be continuity errors, they smack of lazy writing. To use The Hunger Games again, Cato and Clove, who are both consistently portrayed as ruthless killers who never leave a victim breathing, let not one but two victims get away. Cato gives Peeta a leg wound and then walks away, after he is shown to let his temper cloud his judgment.  Clove (who is literally a back-stabbing bitch) wastes a lot of time taunting Katniss, which led to her own demise. Of course, Mrs. Collins wanted to show that Katniss and Peeta had close encounters with the Careers and lived through it, but my thought was that in these two cases, she took the easy way out. One could argue that cato wanted Peeta to suffer a slow death, but this just does not match the characterization that Collins gives him. And another thing: Thresh lets Katniss live because he feels he “owes” her after the compassion she showed Rue. In the arena, there is no “owing.” You either kill or be killed. Now once again, one could argue that for Thresh, it didn’t matter. Whether he let Katniss live or not, he was eventually going to have to go head-to head with Cato. But Katniss’ explanation that “if he won, he would have to face a district that broke its rules to thank me” doesn’t make sense because Thresh had no way of knowing about the bread gift. Once again, I think Collins could have handled this in a more plausible manner.

(Note: my purpose of this post is not to trash Mrs. Collins or The Hunger Games. I loved the book and devoured the entire series in two days. I’m just using it as an example because nowadays, I only read indie authors-due to time constraints-and The Hunger Games is the only mainstream novel I have read lately. I never, under any circumstances, criticize an indie author in this blog). Moving forward:

Fictional Liberties are “boosts” that an author uses to move the plot along. In the cases in Ice I have given above, these boosts were essential to the plot: if the pool had been drained, there would be no plot, at least not as I described it. As to the other two things, I explained those in the book, so either the reader wasn’t paying attention or deliberately ignored them. Once again, I will use The Hunger Games to clarify the difference between a plot hole and a fictional liberty. There are many examples I can give since the novel is chock-full of wild coincidences. The best way to tell them apart is if you have to ask why? As in: why would President Snow, who was apparently completely aware that Katniss routinely violated the law every Sunday by hunting in the woods, be so hesitant to punish her? In fact, Snow missed a great opportunity to hold her up as an example that even victors aren’t immune from the law. Because without Katniss, the story would be over. Period. She is necessary to the plot.  And why exactly is Katniss’ trick wit the berries an act of rebellion, when in 74 years, people have certainly pulled more desperate stunts to survive the arena. And speaking of this: why did Haymitch’s so-called act of rebellion result in the murder of his family but Katniss’ act did not? The answer to that may seem simple-Prim was Snow’s only leverage to force Katniss into prostitution in the Capitol-but why am I getting the impression that Finnick (and possibly Cashmere) were the only victors who actually served as prostitutes. And it says that clients paid Snow for the pleasure of a one-night stand with Finnick, so why would they owe him anything at all, least of all potentially seditious Capitol secrets?

So are you ready for Jessica’s ever-wise recommendations for both readers and writers? (Disclaimer: my opinion only. Not professional advice)

To writers: it is your story and you are free to write it how you choose. Fictional liberties (kept within the bounds of some believability) are fine. In fact, attempting to explain every single little thing will bog down your story. This is why it is called fiction. By definition, fiction is a product of writers’ imagination and not based on fact.

To readers: You are free to rate a work however you see fit; that is absolutely your right. However, if you are overthinking things, you are probably putting more effort into a review than is required for a work of fiction. I would say that if you hated a work, just get it off your chest and say you hated it (although for the life of me, I can’t figure out why a reader would even finish a book that he/she hated so much). I would much rather a reader tell me “I hate this story, I can’t get into it, and I can’t finish it” than to expect me to explain away anything that might deviate from reality a tad or is not written how they would have written it. I mean it. You have the right to tell me you simply hate my story, with no explanation. You are under no obligation to look for a reason to hate it (although I definitely still welcome and appreciate constructive criticism). I have more respect for a reviewer who simply tells me they didn’t like the story than one who tries to impose his or her version of MY story on me.

To answer the question as to why the pool never got drained? Because no one ever thought, “You know, this pool might be used against us one day in an elaborate revenge plan aimed at our beloved mayor. Let’s buy an expensive pump and get this sucker drained right this second.” Anyone who has read Ice knows that the Mints, spoiled into complacency by their peaceful existence, don’t have the same sense of urgency that most normal people have. For this same reason, they don’t bother to prepare for emergencies (like forest fires or errant gunmen).

Author Spotlight-D.B Nielsen

We all remember the classic novels we read in high school literature class. At the time we groaned, but as we got older, we have developed a deeper appreciation for them. Among other things, D.B. Nielsen in her novel Seed: Keeper of the Genesis I casts a new light on two of these novels, Jane Erye and Great Expectations.

Seed revolves around identical twins Saffron and Sage but focuses mainly on Sage. The studious, bookwormish Sage is the polar opposite of her outgoing, fashionista twin, but the two nonetheless share a close bond. One day, Sage decides to visit her father, a renowned archeologist, at the British Museum where he works on classifying and studying ancient Mesopotamian artifacts. After seeing the so-called “Seed” she begins to experience vivid and sometimes terrifying visions. During that same visit, she meets Dr. Elijah St. John Rivers, with whom she feels an instant connection. Little does she know that this routine museum visit is going to change her life forever, and that St. John is not quite who he appears to be.
St. John (pronounced Sin-jin, something I will never forget after being publicly chastised by a grumpy lit professor) is a somewhat ironic character (and is hinted to be the actual character from Bronte’s novel). In Bronte’s novel, St. John (a virtuous but cold and rigid man) proposes to Jane, although he is clearly in love with another woman, because he views Jane as a sister and has decided to renounce passion and earthly pleasure in order to seek divine elevation. In Nielsen’s novel, St. John decides that, because he has no hope of eternal salvation, his best chance at happiness is a life on Earth with Sage for as long as he has.

My favorite aspect of the book is how Nielsen engages the reader in all five senses: the sights, the smells, the sounds are all vividly and expertly described. I also love Sage’s dual characterizations: on one hand, she is an ordinary teenager who is trying to get into college and dying to go to Paris, and on the other, she is predestined for a special divine role.

The image of the ruined Satis House sealed the deal for me. One can almost imagine that if you walked in there, you would see Miss Havisham still rocking away in her wedding dress in her dusty room. The eeriness of this image stayed with me after I finished the book. I believe it is symbolic of the fate of some of the key characters and a foreshadowing of things to come. I guess I’ll have to read the sequel, Scroll, to find out.

To purchase Seed: http://www.amazon.com/SEED-Keepers-Genesis-d-nielsen-ebook/dp/B00K75I06E/ref=sr_1_11?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1423928505&sr=1-11&keywords=seed

For UK customers: http://www.amazon.co.uk/SEED-Keepers-Genesis-d-nielsen-ebook/dp/B00K75I06E/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1423929241&sr=1-1&keywords=seed%3A+keeper+of+the+Genesis

Presenting a Special Guest-Ian Williams

Ian Williams’ Transitory was book of the month for January. This was the first month of this club, and the response and enthusiasm was tremendous.

Ian Williams is a science fiction writer from the United Kingdom. Transitory, which is about a businessman who travels to a distant planet and finds out that he is the target of a hitman, is Williams’ first novel. He recently released a second novel called The Sentient Collector, which is first in a dystopian trilogy.

To check out Transitory: http://www.amazon.com/Transitory-Ian-Williams-ebook/dp/B00LACOVU2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423431456&sr=8-1&keywords=transitory

Here are what some reviewers have said about Transitory:

1. “The author, Ian Williams, took me to a fantastically different location without the normal dreary travel time evident in some science fiction books. His characterisations were brilliant. They made me care about Nate, the main character, and also the others who were helping him get to the truth.”

2. “This book is unlike anything I have read before. I found it refreshing and new. I read it pretty quickly because I had a really hard time putting it down. There were no slow dragging spots and it kept a nice steady pace.”

3. “…this book made it quite easy for me to picture the new world in my mind. There wasn’t an overabundance either which usually makes my eyes glaze over.”

4. “…I do believe that it will be a great read for those who like descriptive sci-fi.”

5. “I fell in love with Nate’s sassy mouth and cunning humor. His reactions to unusual and bizarre situations were often what mine would be, along with his coping mechanism of snarky remarks. It was nearly as much of a treat to be inside his head as inside this alien sci-fi environment.”

I was wondering what the story behind Transitory and what made Williams decide to write it. Here is an interview:

1: Was the writing based on something personal such as a war or love experience or was it all fiction?

Answer 
Transitory was all fiction unfortunately. I’d love to say that parts of it were based on personal experiences, but they weren’t. Of course how characters interact and how people talk will have been influenced by people I see everyday.

2: Is there going to be a follow up book to explore the budding romance, the punishments and how Nate deals with all of it?

Answer 
I haven’t ruled out a sequel. In time I may decide to return and take the story further. But for that to happen it would have to move beyond Nate and the others. To me it seems that L’Armin is the character who has the most interesting past and the potential to go much further than Transitory could. I would love to explore this story, with Nate and the others involved too of course.

3. How long did it take to write Transitory?

Answer
It took me around a year to write. This being my first book meant I spent longer than I would today. My aim these days is to have the first draft of a new book finished in roughly four months, followed by another two months of rewrites and editing.

4. What drew you to the science fiction genre?

Answer
I’ve always loved science fiction, mainly for the way it can tell multiple stories in one. I grew up watching TV shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation (I also loved Quantum Leap and Stargate) and they always managed to do this in an enjoyable way.

Transitory was written as if it were a single episode of a TV show. This meant it was always supposed to be quite compact and yet explore large subjects at the same time. Science fiction is a genre that I natural lean towards because of this. I don’t feel that I could write the stories I want to in any other genre.

5. In Transitory, you explore the theme of corporate dominance and exploitation. What are your thoughts on this?

Answer
I don’t believe all corporations are inherently evil, but I do believe that they can sometimes act in such a way, particularly when it comes to natural resources. The corporate mentality is to put a price on anything and everything, even human life. They will find profit in any way they can and that sometimes means bending rules – or breaking them entirely. What is right is often less defined when there is money to be made.

This was the reason behind the theme of exploitation in Transitory. Nate’s company travel the galaxy in search of raw materials locked up inside asteroids. To them it is a routine job. But they have no idea what an alien species would make of such an act, more importantly I suspect they simply wouldn’t care. Like Fracking beneath people’s homes, it is done with only one concern: profit.

Nate, on the other hand, just hasn’t really thought about it before. L’Armin’s views on space mining would have been the first time anyone had ever really questioned him on the morality of such an industry. I’d like to think he would have changed his ways because of this.

6. Do you believe that in the future, space travel will be routine?

Answer
I do think this will happen, and sometime within the next thirty years. Only recently a private firm was given the go ahead to transport equipment and supplies to the International Space Station. When this is being done on a regular basis it will open up space to others too. I think this will then slowly filter down to the rest of the population.

As for travelling the galaxy, like in Transitory, I think that will take much longer. For that to happen we will need many advancements in space technology first. But with ambitious plans to land humans on Mars and even an asteroid only decades away, things are still certainly looking good for space travel.

7. Do you believe there is life on other planets? If so, do you think they are friendly, peaceful beings?

Answer
I do believe there is life on other planets. The general scientific consensus is that the chances of life existing elsewhere in the universe is overwhelmingly possible, if not likely. Take the findings from the Kepler Space Telescope for example. It has detected and confirmed the presence of over a thousand Exoplanets and is investigating many more; all this since 2009. Scientists are finding more and more each year.

If you then take into consideration that estimates put the number of stars in The Milky Way alone as somewhere in the region of 300 billion, then it becomes clear that there is indeed a high probability of some of those being orbited by planets containing life. Whether that life is intelligent is a different matter. 

I hope that somewhere there are other intelligent beings searching for signs of another form of life, and that they are friendly – although if we were ever to meet them I wouldn’t be so sure that they would consider us friendly and peaceful as a race.

8. What is your personal favorite part of Transitory?

Answer
My favourite part of Transitory is Nate’s memory of the mining convention he attended (Chapter 9).This was fun to write as I was doing everything I could to show that Nate isn’t particularly good at his job. He fluffs his lines when reading out his speech, he fails to answer questions and generally deals with it in a very unprofessional way. It was one of the points in the story that showed how Nate copes under pressure – or doesn’t in this case.

Nate’s character was intended to be arrogant, some have even said unlikeable, at the beginning. He comes across as selfish and often quite rude too. I did this to show how Nate’s character changes over time throughout the story. By the end of the book I wanted the reader to have warmed to him and even to start to like him. When he is forced into a corner and left with a moral choice, he will always do the right thing, despite what his corporate brain tells him to do.

Chapter 9 is also where an important plot twist is revealed to the reader. I enjoyed writing this part a lot.

9. You currently have a dystopian trilogy in the works (the first of the series has recently been released. do you care to tell us a little about that?

Answer
With The Sentient Collector I wanted to try and tell the story that comes after the world’s first Artificial Intelligence is created. In book 1 the AI has already existed for 7 years and things have started to unravel.

The story follows 3 characters as they each become embroiled in an ever deepening plot. Graham Denehey works for the company which created the AI, Phoenix is an outsider working for the wrong man, whereas Kristof is the man brought in to prevent a crisis. What brings the story together is one man known only as The Sentient Collector. Finding this unknown figure is the key to preventing a terrible event.

Transitory was always intended to be a short story or novella. The Sentient Collector, on the other hand, was planned as a full book followed by another 2 books. The Trilogy is already written in my head, I just need to put finger to keyboard and finish it.

10. Are there any other thoughts you wish to share?

Answer
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Jessica Wren for making Transitory Book of the Month for January. To have my first ever book featured in a book club is a true honour and one I will always be grateful for.

I would also like to take this moment to thank everyone who bought, read and reviewed Transitory. Hearing what you all thought of it has been a real joy.

If you are a fan of Ian Williams, of science fiction, or just want to show you support to a promising new author, I strongly encourage you to join the Ian Williams Fan Club. There are three ways to join:

1. On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/154950-ian-williams-fan-club
2. On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1568863896693454/
3. On Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/communities/107572608043988627238

If you would like to join Jessica and Jen's Book of the Month Club, it is loads of fun and a great way to meet new friends and help promote rising indie authors:

1. On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/153603-jessica-s-book-of-the-month
2. On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Jessicasbotm/
3. On Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/communities/114857677243125019375

Regards, 
Jessica Wren

January’s Book of the Month

This was a resounding success and I am very grateful to everyone who participated and put in thoughtful reviews of Transitory.

February’s Book of the Month #1 will be Imogene’s Message: A Thriller of Extreme Prejudice by Christina Sherborne.