Sunday, August 18, 2013

Discussion: Predictability in Books


Before I start this discussion, I have to let you know that I read a LOT of books (about a book every day or two). Maybe it's because of the sheer volume of books that I read, but I find that not many young adult books these days really, truly surprise me. But is this a good thing or a bad thing?

On one hand, it's theoretically a bad thing for a book to be predictable. Being able to see what's coming ruins the surprise, or the "wow" factor of the book. Often, as well, if a book is predictable it's because it's clich├ęd. If an author uses the same old formula, then clearly you're going to know what's coming. It's especially disappointing when a mystery or thriller is predictable.

On the other hand, it's not necessarily a bad thing, because predictable books can make for nice fluffy reads. For example, recently I read The Distance Between Us by Kasie West, which followed a rather obvious plotline. But I absolutely loved it! It had such a sweet and swoony romance. I find that these predictable contemporary romances make for nice reads when you feel like something light and quick.

I think the reason for some books not surprising me, personally, is because I always make random and wild speculations as to what's going to happen. And then I'm somehow able to justify those speculations. So technically, it's not that the book is predictable, but that I'm good at predicting the events (or I'm just really lucky or something). Who knows...

Some amazing books which have some sort of massive twist
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill (Okay, the twist in this one wasn't that huge. It's just a really great book! #shamelessplug)
Shadowlands by Kate Brian


What do you think about predictability in books? And are you any good at predicting twists?


28 comments:

  1. For me, I only dislike predictability in books when it's obvious. When it seems like the author has done a really poor job of hiding what's going on even though you can tell it's supposed to be shocking. If it's not some big secret and it's predictable, then it doesn't bother me as much... if that makes sense. I'm not sure if it does. But really, I get this way about movies. All movies are predictable to me, but it doesn't take away my enjoyment. A book or movie can still be predictable and be good. But, I think it has the power to blow people away if it manages to be unpredictable. Yeah... something like that ;)

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    1. Quite true! Most movies are pretty predictable but it's still fun to watch how the events unfold (particularly in rom coms)
      I love it when a book is unpredictable! I love the feeling when everything you know has been turned upside down :)

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  2. When it comes to predictability, I feel like I can group books into two: books that are about the journey and books that are about the ending.

    When a book focuses more on the journey, like a love story, it's clear right from the beginning what the ending is. And keeping with the example, that means they fall in love, right? Anyone can figure that out but in this case, the important thing is not that the characters end up together, it's how they got there. Which is why even though it was predictable that they would fall in love, I could still enjoy the book.

    When a book is all about the ending, like with a mystery, and the killer is hidden poorly? That's when it gets frustrating. It's as if you're waiting for the detective to figure out who it is. And no one in search of a mystery wants that.

    But like you, I would say I'm pretty good at discovering twists. I don't think that ruins books for me though because I'm never really sure right? Unless it's painfully obvious in which case I go back to the two paragraphs above.

    I hope that made sense to you Nara! It took me a long time to put my thoughts into words and I'm not sure if they came out as eloquently as I'd hoped they would!

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    1. *applauds*
      This comment! It pretty much summarises exactly how I feel! You should have written this discussion post haha.
      Thanks for contributing your thoughts Annie, they're quite brilliant :D

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  3. I've read All Our Yesterdays and Shadowlands and I agree about the twists. The one in All Our Yesterdays wasn't that big, but the one in Shadowlands was 'wow' for me. I was thinking all kinds of other stuff to explain the weirdness, but I never even thought of that.

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    1. I know right! Shadowlands just completely pulled the rug out from under me. I mean, the actual explanation was probably the LAST thing I would have thought of! So completely unexpected!

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  4. I'm pretty good at predicting twists, I think mainly because, like you, I've read a lot of books and get a feeling for where plots will go. Sometimes if I'm not reading to be surprised and blown away by plot, predictability is okay (like in contemporaries and character driven novels). Sometimes it won't detract from the enjoyment of the story (eg for me, The Last Sacrifice,Vampire Academy #6 I predicted the major twist but still enjoyed the book). Other times it's makes the book even more annoying.

    Overall though I LOVE it when I book takes me completely by surprise. The last one that did was Angelfall by Susan EE. I had to take a shocked breath and stared in horror at the page for about 5 minutes. It's the best feeling to realise where you thought the book was going was completely wrong, and the true plot line is more horrifying/amazing/shocking than you could have ever imagined.

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    1. Oh awesome, you predicted the twist in VA? I can't remember whether I did or not because I read the book so long ago haha. I don't think I did...but can't remember...damn my crappy memory!

      AH! I LOVE Angelfall! That one was definitely unexpected! Just the ending OMG O.O

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  5. I totally agree about All Our Yesterdays! It's not something so shocking, but damn, was that book good!

    As for the main topic, I'm fine with some predictability. As long as there's something else to counter that, like great dialogue or a spunky character, and even some creativity mixed with that predictable scene.

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    1. haha yeah I couldn't resist putting it in there even though it was the slightest twist because the book was so awesome :P

      And I agree, if there's some sort of other factor that offsets the predictability e.g. amazing world building, then I tend not to mind :)

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  6. I agree with you! I also find that books that surprise me with something are usually books with more chance at a 5 star rating! Not that I rate by predictability, but I find that the books with major unexpected twists are usually - in my opinion- the better ones.

    Also, yes All Our Yesterdays! It was just amazing. And when all those things started happening, and that little bit at the ending... Ahh!

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    1. That's true, a lot of the unpredictable books tend to have a bigger impact on the feels. And therefore tend to get higher ratings.

      AHHH All Our Yesterdays! The ending had me tear up. In a good way though :')

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  7. OMG. I suck at predicting stories- you should totally read my review of Prep School Confidential for more deets on that. I don't like predictability but it's tough to do and books like AOY and Dangerous Girls were the rare couple.

    Awesome post, Nara! <33

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    1. Had a read of it just then- and then added the book to my TBR haha.
      I do agree that it's so hard for authors to do unpredictability these days- a lot of the unexpected twists have almost become expected...
      Thanks Mel :)

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  8. Totally agree with Crown of Midnight! At one point I was so shocked I had to put it down for a few minutes to let it sink in.

    Christy @ Christy's Book Addiction

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    1. Crown of Midnight was SO GOOD. After I read those last few lines I was in so much shock! Just had not expected that. At all!

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  9. This is a great post, as I used to hate predictable books, especially when I know the actual twist, it just takes so much away from the story. I have become a bit more tolerant now, but I do have a fondness for books that can surprise me!

    Alise @ Readers in Wonderland

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    1. I definitely agree! While predictable books can still be quite enjoyable, I tend to find that the unpredictable ones are the ones on my favourites shelf :)

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  10. If I can predict it, it's usually pretty obvious. And I'm not a fan of obvious. Like the last book I read... I'd pretty much figured out who the bad guy was in the first part of the story. That made reading the rest of the book kind of boring.

    I like a good twist! Or, if not an actual twist, then not the obvious staring you in the face.

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    1. Oh man..it's terrible when you can figure it out so early. What book was it, by the way? I'm always curious with these things...

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  11. I'm okay with predictability as long as the execution is done right. Some books are so downright predictable that it gets really boring but some have predictable plots and still able to grab you in and get you engaged in the story.

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    1. Very true! The execution definitely makes or breaks the book. I guess it's pretty rare for a book to be completely predictable- usually there's at least one or two events that you don't see coming.

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  12. The thing I find nowadays is that authors will be having a harder and harder time with writing books as the years pass, because there's no such thing as an original thought anymore. Everything has been used up, so it's hard for authors not to stray into the rhythym of other books. Why do you think so many songs out there sound the same nowadays? Because people can't think of anything new. I'm not saying it's right for authors and artists to do this, but there is a reason why it's this way.

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    1. I don't know about that. Each book is technically unique in its own way, and there are some that come up with some astounding ideas. For example, have you read Earth Girl before? The ideas in that book are truly unique (or at least, I haven't read anything like it before). I think there is always the possibility of creating something new (although I do agree that it will probably get harder as time goes on).

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  13. I think we are on the same page this week, because I always discussed a similar theme on my blog. I think most books follow a formula and, with time, we get used to what's going to happen. Also, when we read a lot, it's harder to surprise us. But, like you said, sometimes it's nice to find a cute book to read, that doesn't really need to be a big surprise. Nevertheless, I always prefer big surprises and unexpected plot twists. It makes the reading journey much more interesting!

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    1. I do agree! While reading a light book, it's not too bad to have a predictable read but it's definitely a pleasant surprise when something unexpected pops up!

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  14. It really depends, Narra. There are times that I like predictability as long as it's kept to a bare minimum and it was executed well. And from what I have observed nowadays especially with Y/A books, they follow the same plot line recipe. It really gets tiring sometimes that's why I often find myself rereading my all time favorite books because they were unique in a way.

    As like you and Chantelle, I am constantly looking for that special book to be included on my Panacea list. And I tell you, the journey is so damn difficult.

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    1. It is pretty difficult! But it makes the find even more special :)

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