Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Jenkins and the Very Bad Books

Fred Clark, at Slacktivist on the Patheos blog group, has been dissecting a series of twelve books in minute detail.  After around ten years, he is maybe halfway through the third book.  And boy, are they terrible!
And yet, also extremely successful.  Clark, and I right now, is writing about the Left Behind books, a series that begins with the Christian rapture and describes the seven years between that event and return of Jesus to Earth.  As Clark as admirably explained, they are combine bad theology, poor characterization, a plot with huge holes and etc.  They are not well written.

Still, seeing these books and perhaps To Kill a Mockingbird are a way to see what works and what doesn't.

On March 21 of 2016, Clark noted the following about the books (describing Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 315-318):
Throughout this series, Jerry Jenkins provides a graduate-level seminar in how not to write fiction. This scene displays his approach to characterization. For Jenkins, the best way to convey character is to assert it directly in the voice of the narrator: “Rayford is brave.” The next-best approach, for Jenkins, is to have the character state this assertion about themselves: “‘I am brave,’ said Rayford.” And Jenkins likes to supplement those by also having other characters restate this assertion: “‘Rayford is so very brave,’ thought Buck.” And since he has all of these voices asserting this attribute of the character’s character, Jenkins seems to think it would be overkill to add to that by ever showing the character behaving in a way that would match this description.
This is, of course, bass-ackwards and upside-down. It’s the opposite of what any writer should be doing. “Show; don’t tell” is a clichéd slogan from every introductory writing class because it is necessary and good and true. But the only thing Jenkins ever shows us in his storytelling is just why that hoary advice is true. By always telling and never showing, he inadvertently shows us the importance of that rule.
Jerry Jenkins may have no interest in developing his characters and no patience for it, but he’s constantly revealing character despite that — doing so accidentally, unconsciously, and unintentionally. Thus despite the relentless assertion of Buck and Rayford’s virtues in Jenkins’ all-tell, no-show approach, we readers have come to see quite a bit about the actual character of these characters — all of which contradicts Jenkins’ claims about them and their claims about themselves. And despite all the nasty assertions Jenkins tells us about characters he doesn’t want us to like — Hattie, Verna, women in general — what he shows us of their actions leads us to admire those characters in ways he never intended.

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