Descriptions for heat levels in book list

------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥ -all of above including coarser language and sex more frequent

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A villain's motivation

As long as I've been writing about Craig Johnson's books, I should add I had some issues with them which didn't cause me to not enjoy them but likely came with the territory of writing myself. It is regarding his villains.

I have to add here that where he writes his stories from first person point of view (hereto-after to be known as POV), it can be complicated. All you can ever know, when the story is told from first person, is what the 'I' character knows and can observe. If that lead character is very astute, a good judge of human nature, then you can know quite a bit about the others in the story.

In the Longmire books, the sheriff, Walt Longmire, is a pretty good judge of character generally both of others and himself. That fact is what makes the books work. When he isn't, it makes sense to the reader that he likely would not be as it stays pretty consistent to his previous mistakes. We can all be fooled, but a first person book where the character was clueless about the world around him/her would be boring and fall apart quickly. It is believable that a sheriff, especially one with all of Walt's previous experiences, would be good at judging people-- it's what keeps him alive.

Except, I think, there is a flaw where it comes to the villains. Without knowing their motivations, things get thrown at the reader. Attacks come, villains have motivations that make no sense logically, and I felt they were mostly done to keep the books lively. If you want more than action, if you are looking for the villains to act in ways that suits their goals, or even to have reasonable goals, some of the violent attacks fell apart for me. Like all that villain had to do was sit tight and they wouldn't end up dead or found out. If they had a good reason to not do that, then fine; but if not, it felt like an author ploy.

In a book where the POV shifts and once in awhile you get the villain's, you can make it more understandable when a villain acts against his own best interests. You can even establish a villain who is a psychopath and that does not require any motivation as psychopaths don't operate with the same kind of reward system that most humans do.

Anyway in several of the books, I really didn't buy the villains' motivations to do what they did. Yes, they did it. Yes, it put Walt's life at risk, might've ended up killing him if somebody else (spirit or human) hadn't interfered. So it's kind of leave logic behind and enjoy the ride.

A place romances fall apart is when a hero and heroine simply don't seem they'd have really chosen each other. Or maybe when the obstacles standing between them seem more author created than real.

In an adventure story, which Johnson's books are, as much as mysteries, for me at least, the villain should have motivations that go beyond author contrivances; and it's the only real complaint I have had with his books.

In my own I have the advantage of using third person POV, sometimes sliding into someone either closer to the villain, or even into the villain's thinking. I realize that's a benefit of writing romances and not the literary type novels some prefer (which have more structural limitations). As long as it works smoothly, I can go where I want to tell the story-- although I avoid any omnipotent views-- everything in one of my books is coming from one character or another's perspective.

The closest I came to using only one POV was not a first person but Evening Star did use third person POV sticking with the heroine rather than going into what the hero was feeling. Marla, as a lawyer, was pretty good at assessing and noting people's motives (well other than her own). For that one though I also used the villain's POV as it helped make what was coming make sense. It also enabled another character's view of the hero since the reader never got his directly.

I really appreciate the skill that Craig Johnson has to make his stories come alive. I also get that it's not easy to use first person. I get that he has to keep action going and danger constantly happening unexpectedly. I just like books where I believe that the villain did what made sense, and that it wasn't all about an author giving Walt one more exciting obstacle to nearly not overcome. The reason for the original crime though is often very cleverly thought out-- just those attacks not so much as far as I could see...

Since reading mysteries is not my forte, maybe others will see where what bothered me was not a problem to them.