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Oh, great editors…save me from sieves

by Calee Jordan

I hate sieve writing, sieve books. What’s sieve writing? Well, in my head, where I’m not so polite, I call them dumb books.

I don’t mean dumb premises like a woman with a toothpick saving the world from a hangry koala or a woman needing to have sex with a stranger to stay alive.  Those plots may seem ridiculous, but oddly, a good author can make them work.

And I don’t mean low brow or simplistic language and stories. Simple stories can be good stories.

No, dumb—excuse me—sieve writing lacks thought. Sieve books lack awareness of themselves, their characters, or the readers, leaving gaps in logic. They have giant holes in the story or weird character behaviors—usually dumb or oops moments–that don’t fit the character’s personality. The plots read as if no one has thought about the story, as if the readers would never question the situation or its reality, making the stories unbelievable. It frustrates me as a reader because the behavior or concept doesn’t seem plausible.

My example: Voodoo Knights by Amanda Rose.

This romantic (reverse harem) fantasy (voodoo gods and a voodoo queen) wants me to believe four amazingly hot supernatural gods (voodoo knights) hang around a Louisiana mansion protecting the Laveaux voodoo queen (a human with no fighting skills but possessing significant power) from whom they draw strength as she maintains balance between good and evil.  They (these magical loa gods) share her power by kissing her, and they bond their energies through sex.

Ok . . . .I guess. Like I said, an odd premise doesn’t equal a sieve book.

Anyway, before serving the main character, these voodoo knights lived with and served the main character’s grandmother, from whom the main character inherited the mansion, power, and destiny.  Unfortunately, with her inheritance came grandmother’s enemies who want to kill the new voodoo queen.

Ok. Umm? Wait . . . .what?

So many questions flashed through my mind. Since this story is a romance first (I think), my mind immediately jumps to the OMG stuff.

<gasp> Did they kiss her grandmother? Did these guys have sex with her grandmother? How long were these guys/gods whatever dating her grandmother?

These questions never arose, by the way.  The character never thought of it, so I kept reading. Besides, the sex part of it isn’t the most important part of this life and death, good vs. evil situation.  But my mind churns with more questions:

What’s her power? They didn’t say, but she has a lot, and sharing it drains her pretty quickly.

So she doesn’t have that much power? Ummm, maybe more than most, but she doesn’t have infinite power.

How does she wield her power? Through mojo bags and kisses.

So is she a witch who substitutes mojo bags for hex bags? What does her power do? How does she create balance? I don’t know. Those answers weren’t in the book. Strengthen the gods while she waits on the sidelines.

Yeah, that’s super powerful.

Why do gods need to draw energy? Are the other gods, the villains, drawing energy? Is there an opposing character who wants imbalance? I don’t know. Those answers weren’t in the book.

Instead, the five spend most of the book fending off attacks from loa (creatures that come in various forms, levels of power and evil. Did I mention the Voodoo Knights aka the Voodoo Gods are also loa?). Anyway, most of the loa seem to be evil creatures attempting to kill the main character. A random loa siphoning life energy from a student is killed.

Why is she so comfortable in Louisiana when she grew up in Alaska? Do Louisiana and Alaska share similar environments and weather patterns?

So who’s the evil? One of the god’s brother or maybe another guy, Legba?

These questions were never asked or answerd. Well, the character isn’t overly inquisitive, and she accepts the situation at face value. Thus questioning the protectors’ interactions with her grandmother isn’t too unreasonable.

Is this book about lust or soul mates because soul mate was referenced once, but the main character likes them for their abs?

Does she help kill bad loa so that good loa aren’t overwhelmed? Is that maintaining balance? It seems the main character chose a side.

Ok, ok, that’s a criticism rather than a plot question.

You get the point. By the end of the novel, I’m talking to myself and attempting to justify the story. Many, many more questions swirled through my head as I read the book. Only a few were answered, and surprisingly (at least to me), the main character answers only a few of them, but not the most important ones.

Why wouldn’t the character ask these questions?  Why wouldn’t the book answer them?

Even if all the aforementioned questions aren’t addressed, many of them are too simple and reasonable to ignore. I mean I would ask a few questions if the guy (god) who lived with my grandmother is flirting with me.  If some guy was trying to kill me, I’d want to know my power skillset and practice them.

Yet the main character doesn’t ask or practice for weeks.

And that leads me to the second dumb—sieve—moment. Good characters suddenly lack critical thinking skills and reasonable life-or-death thinking that would keep them alive.

This character says she’s smart. She seems reasonable. She wants to live; she wants to keep her father safe, but she doesn’t actively prevent danger. They compare schedules and plan training sessions, but—despite being grounded and stuck together for a month—they don’t train or discuss the problem.

Umm, so why is he trying to kill me? How do I stop him? Did you make out with my grandmother to share her power? (Nope, I can’t let that go.)

The threats to the main character’s life might excuse some her lack of curiosity, but weeks of being inseparable and grounded may be the best time to review the details. Which suggests the character is dumb as well after all what great heroine doesn’t realize the best time to learn more about the threat is when the threat is quiet. Even though the threat of monsters is reasonable to accept when said creatures attempt her murder, shouldn’t she be curious about the how, why, and now what?

That brings me to the most important part of sieve books: what do I do about them? Sadly, I always finish the sieve books in hopes the holes will fill themselves. The book is tossed on my “never read it again” shelf and never read the author’s work again, but that doesn’t feel proactive.

I could leave feedback, but leaving feedback appears subjective and more for the readers than the author.  I can save a reader from a frustrating reading experience, but I can advise other readers that the book has plot holes, but that doesn’t fix the problem.

Now what?

A bit about the columnist:

Calee Jordan is a writing professor. Despite spending her days in academic and technical writing, Calee enjoys nights of fiction--among passionate couples, paranormal creatures, and other worlds. Visit author page

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