I've been reading quite a lot of crime books for a book award and I've have to say I've come across some ridiculous plotlines.  It's made me wonder how some books get published.  Does a ridiculous plotline matter if the writing is amazing or will the plot still be silly regardless?  Should writers have a good think before turning that strange fact they've discovered into a plot or should everything be grist for the mill?

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Brown, is a master at what he does. I agree. He found his style, his niche and stuck to it. He writes in an excellent manner, an easy read. No doubt he is a millionaire. as a fledgling author with just one book, I just will not emulate his style anytime soon. The man writes in an excellent manner (did I say that before?). I agree with you in many ways. It is the story.

But, it is the marketing and excellent PR that put it in the face of millions of potential readers and not just the fact that he wrote a good book. Thousands of excellent books are written hourly but they don't all have the PR Brown had, coupled with the religious twist, the anger of Christians/Muslims has proven over the years, over and over to be a good thing all of the time, Ahmed Salman Rushdie became Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie for mentioning the taboo, and the list is not long enough. Hit the right string, become news worthy enough, have the right PR and marketing strategy and Voila--recipe for success.
"But, it is the marketing and excellent PR that put it in the face of millions of potential readers and not just the fact that he wrote a good book."

But that's true of any book that does well. I mean, the publishers and distributors and bookstores decide which books they will make available in that quantity in advance of release (because, after all, it's hard to ship that much).

IMHO, the controversy IS what the book is about, so you can't separate that from Brown's efforts. If you want to write best sellers, you have to play the market as part of your whole concept.

I'm not interested in doing that myself, so I don't really mind that such people are successful.
I actively disliked THE DAVINCI CODE, but I'm with Camille on one point: it's a hell of a story. It's amateurishly told, but the bones of the story are fascinating. I shudder to think of what kind of book could have been created had there been three-dimensional characters, decent dialog, and a little more plausible plot twists. Alas, to quote Chandler.

"...that for any approach to perfection it demands a combination of qualities not found in the same mind. The cool-headed constructionist does not also come across with lively characters, sharp dialogue, a sense of pace and an acute use of observed detail. The grim logician has as much atmosphere as a drawing-board. The scientific sleuth has a nice new shiny laboratory, but I’m sorry I can’t remember the face. The fellow who can write you a vivid and colorful prose simply won’t be bothered with the coolie labor of breaking down unbreakable alibis. The master of rare knowledge is living psychologically in the age of the hoop skirt. If you know all you should know about ceramics and Egyptian needlework, you don’t know anything at all about the police. If you know that platinum won’t melt under about 2800 degrees F. by itself, but will melt at the glance of a pair of deep blue eyes when put close to a bar of lead, then you don’t know how men make love in the twentieth century. And if you know enough about the elegant flânerie of the pre-war French Riviera to lay your story in that locale, you don’t know that a couple of capsules of barbital small enough to be swallowed will not only not kill a man—they will not even put him to sleep, if he fights against them."
Actually, I believe that it is possible to know several things very well. Mostly, though the author owes the reader having done a good job on the research. Of course, some things don't matter as much to any given writer than others. I have very little interest in locked room mysteries (though I've written one), but a great deal of interest in the characters and the time they lived in.
Good points all ... yours and Raymond Chandler's.

On the subject of church prejudice, to see how the Protestants and Catholics acted in the 17th Century, take a look at "Heresy" by S.J. Parris ... Privately, Anglicans and Catholics were friendly, but damn don't let the public or the authorities know it or it could cost you your life. That, of course, may be the author's bias.

Yes and no. The 17th c. is the century of Oliver Cromwell. The Roundheads were strictly Protestant. But Catholics had subsisted for several centuries already, without many rights and far from political power. Many were highly respected people. John Donne was born Catholic but became Anglican in hopes of preferment. It wasn't until the 18th century that bias against Catholics eased somewhat in England, possibly because during the Enlightenment people redesigned God and put him firmly in his place.
Making the suspension of disbelief "willing" on the part of the reader is probably the trick. And that's such a subjective thing I'd imagine there's actually very little trick to it and a whole lot of luck in some cases. I know I've got a set of biases (for the want of a better word) that it's not going to matter a damn what the author does, I'm going to be rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath. Having said that I've had a few books hit those biases head on and I still enjoyed the time - in which case there's obviously been some sort of mitigating factors - might be the quality of the storytelling, might be some sort of hint that the author knows the whole thing is a bit daft - but what the hell, we're on a ride here. Mind you - it's fiction after all, and it's about entertainment. Maybe some days the reader in me just wants to be entertained and sod the reality of it all. Which is back to that luck thing again.
Our willingness to be taken to somewhere else is a fundamental element of "entertainment" I think. I'm not sure that a writer can force us there if we have a pet hate (like those cat detectives - all puns intended!) but engaging writing helps. What engages? All of the elements previously mentioned in varying degrees; storyline, characters, dialogue, setting, language etc probably depending on our personalities, experiences, views, curiosity, loves etc - a very subjective thing. One skill I suspect is tapping into the Zeitgeist two years before it's a movement and luck is somehow creating something that actually flicks that switch in enough people for four print runs:)
In DeMille's Gold Coast, you have a nutty but nice John Sutter, a vacant and silly Susan and a Mafia Boss who moves in next door on America's Gold coast. What follows is the silliest plot/murder story imaginable, however the characters, the humour, the sheer genius of DeMille's writing makes it all seem plausible. The sequal, whilst not quite as page turning is enjoyable.

I feel that even if the plot is ridiculous, if the author is a great creator of the 'craft' then the plot can be irrelevant.
I enjoyed the hell out of that book too.
Benoit AKoa said:
>>>... I have nothing against Mr. Brown. He is an excellent author. I also think his marketing and PR is what makes him even better...<

Marketing and PR put him out there, word of mouth sold even more books.

Jack Bludis
Plotting certainly matters. If the book puts the main emphasis on character or humor then the plot can be flimsy; likewise, fine writing can hide or make irrelevant (willing suspension of disbelief) plot holes. But in the main, plotting is a required skill as much as dialogue and character development. A sloppy plot is, for the most part, sloppy writing.


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