Friday, July 29, 2011

Plot Problems in Barbie in a Mermaid Tale

Little One loves mermaids and Barbie right now, so this is the kind of stuff she wants to read at bedtime. The Wife doesn't like it when I point out plot problems in front of her, so you're stuck with it. Lucky you.

I'll limit myself to the first few pages so as to avoid Random House's wrath. My comments are in blue:

Merliah Summers smiled as she rode the waves. Ever since she was a little girl, Merliah had been able to swim like a fish. Now she was one of the best surfers in Malibu. As Merliah surfed, she thought everything was perfect--until she noticed her hair. It was turning bright pink!

What the hell is she doing looking at her hair while she's surfing? Is this the secret to becoming "one of the best surfers in Malibu?" And wouldn't pink hair make things even more perfect?

Shocked and embarrassed, Merliah wiped out and dove below the waves. I'm guessing she wiped out because she was staring at her hair instead of the waves or the board or the horizon or whatever it is surfers look at, not because she was embarrassed. When I'm embarrassed, I don't lose my balance. To her amazement, she found that she could breathe underwater! Even more amazing than pink hair? And wouldn't the gills be embarrassing?

"Merliah?" someone said. A sparkly pink dolphin was talking to her! "My name is Zuma. I am a friend of your mother, Calissa. She is the mermaid queen of Oceana--but she needs your help!"

You'd think the queen of Oceana would have a better way of getting in touch with her daughter than turning her hair pink so that she would fall into the ocean and meet up with a pink dolphin. And what, the queen too busy to come see the daughter she abandoned in Malibu herself? Mom of the Year.

Merliah couldn't believe that her mother was a magical mermaid--and that she was half mermaid herself! I admit, such news would be surprising. Although, considering the drastic change in appearance and the ability to breathe underwater, she couldn't have been that surprised. And speaking of which, if Merliah is half mermaid, shouldn't she have always been able to breathe underwater? Given her status as one of the "best surfers in Malibu," how has she never noticed this before? Are we to believe she's never been submerged in water, despite being able to "swim like a fish" ever since she was a little girl?

Merliah learned that when she was a baby, her mother's wicked sister, Eris, had taken over Oceana. Wouldn't that make Eris the queen of Oceana then? The fortune-telling Destinies had foretold that Merliah would one day defeat Eris. So to protect her baby daughter, Calissa had sent Merliah to live with her human grandfather in Malibu.

And now she's leaving her in the flippers of a
pink dolphin? No wonder she lost the throne. I might argue that Oceana is better off with Eris calling the shots. Unless the pink dolphin has supernatural powers...Wait a minute...the dolphin is don't think?...

Vampire dolphin. Nevermind. I take back every criticism.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Reminding the Reader--a Technique

Note: I've got a story up on The Alchemy of Writing today (Thanks, Bryan).You should read it, find something to criticize, comment, and then I'll vigorously defend whatever you criticize and we can turn it into an all-out flame war. It'll be fun.

And now a writerly post:

I've been working by way through Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar books and just finished Promise Me. He uses an interesting technique at one point in the book that I don't remember seeing before. His main character, Myron, is listening to a voicemail. The voicemail refers to an event that happened earlier in the book, early enough that the reader has most likely forgotten about it (as I had). So Coben needs to remind the reader what's going on. Here's how he does it:

Myron got into his car and checked his cell phone. One new message. He listened to it.

"Myron? Gail Berruti here. That call you asked about, the one that came to the residence of Erik Biel." There was a noise behind her. "What? Damn, hold on a second."

Myron did. This was the call Claire had received from the robotic voice telling her that Aimee "is fine." A few seconds later, Berruti was back.

"Sorry about that. Where was I? Right, okay, here it is. The call was placed from a pay phone in New York City..."

Clever, huh? Not only does the distraction allow Coben to slip in the reminder, but it also strikes me as real. I've been disrupted while leaving a message quite a few times. The downside? I couldn't help wonder whether or not the distraction was important to the story. Was Berruti in some kind of danger? It took a few more sentences for me to realize that Coben only used it so he could slip in the reminder.