Continuing my impromptu local author showcase from yesterday, I review one who recently had a signing in my hometown!


Descendant by Nichole Giles is some kind of teen paranormal romance–that’s about all I’m sure of–and I couldn’t even tell the paranormal part from the book itself (I got that from a praise-quote on the jacket).
Again, this one was under a sign stating it was a local author. Its cover art looked professional and seemed to veer away from current bucking-fugly cover art trends.
I almost stopped on the first line of chapter one: “Three Months Earlier.” The prologue begins at a pivotal scene in the plot (perhaps the climax), and is quite interesting as the main character speaks of sacrificing herself to save her love interest. This is a big pet peeve for me–it’s like the author’s saying, “I know my opening is boring and sucky–here’s a bit from the end instead! See, I really can write!” I find it insulting and lazy, but that’s a personal matter.
So I didn’t stop there, figuring I should give the book the benefit of the doubt.
I ended up stopping about page three, after the main character passes out in a theater and recovers, having seen a fat man nodding at her. At this point, the action, plot, setting, and characters were so vague, I couldn’t visualize any of it. That’s why I stopped.
For starters, tell us what it’s about; the jacket synopsis tells us our MC’s on the run from some darkness. The band, the concept, or the physical absence of light?
As I mentioned the entire opening of this book, even the time-skip prologue, even the jacket synopsis is vague; I couldn’t tell the time period at all–the synopsis says Wyoming, and a theater is referred to, but what kind? Movie, play, porno–throw me a bone here! We’re never even told what the characters are in the theater to see. And the characters are vague, too. Apart from our main, who gets a great introduction in the prologue, some “friends,” the love interest, and a fat “man” are mentioned. To compound the problem, there are no descriptions to help things along, either. We’re never told how the theater looks, how the man looks (apart from ’round’), how the main character looks, how the world looks…
Now I’m not saying Giles should have taken the time to describe every one of these things–to do so would drag down the plot and narrative immensely–but she should have at least described the setting of the theater.

Giles left out one of the most important parts of good writing–imagery. Imagery is a very powerful device–it helps the reader’s immersion and can generate empathy too. Is there a streetlight? Don’t just say so–

“I stepped out of the theater and squinted my eyes against the stinging yellow light of the streetlamp. After so long in the dark it burned, and I could feel warm, wet tears pooling at the corners of my eyes.”

Now were you able to visualize that? You see if I just said, “There was a really bright streetlight,” you’d have to do all the imagination work in your head about how that looks and feels. Note teh words mostly describe sensations–warm, wet, stinging, burned–these are things you can FEEL, not just see. Using imagery, specifically sensory imagery, the reader is not only in the same world as the characters, but in the same body.

As always, don’t take my word for it–let me know your opinion in the comments.


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