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Bringing Him Home

Bringing Him Home - Penny Brandon Recently, Penny Brandon, a friend and fellow author had this book panned on Goodreads with a few 2 star reviews. As her first published book, “Blind Passion”, rated much better and her Goodreads free summer short story was well received, I wondered why.After reading the book and checking the comments made, I found I agreed with the majority of them. The criticisms mainly referred to impossible coincidences, misunderstandings, plot holes and an unrealistic recovery time after a car accident.What really struck me, was that these plotting problems could have been avoided quite easily or at least addressed. For example, the unlikely circumstance in which Kyle hitches a lift with the person who lives in his old home.Here’s how this could have been avoided:The place they meet is described as being “near Jared’s home” (in this case birthplace) where he’d grown up prior to moving north to Kyogle.As it is written, we never learn what Kyle is doing other than drifting, but let’s say he needed to go back to Kyogle to supervise the sale of the property he’d inherited from his grandfather. Then, all the story would need is the fact that because Jared was formerly a local, people may be aware of his movements. eg the service station owner/attendant (Aussie equivalent of a truck stop proprietor) might know he was due to pass through there on his way back to Kyogle where he now lived. In a small town, everyone knows everyone else’s movements. He could have even been visiting relatives in the area or it could be a regular port of call on his way through where he stops to catch up with old friends.If Kyle had asked whether they knew of any trucks passing through that might be headed for Kyogle, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the attendant suggests he should hang around for a few hours until Jared came through.The encounter in the showers that the book opens with could then occur as written.Kyle wouldn’t know at that stage that Jared was the guy he was waiting for.Then later in the truck he could discover that Jared actually lived in his old house.This latter fact has been said to be too much of a coincidence, but in small country towns, houses don’t change hands that frequently, therefore it’s quite possible that someone new to the area might buy the only place to have come on the market in the past few years. Then, if Penny had used this fact and mentioned this coincidence, it would be enough incentive/motivation for Kyle to walk out on Jared if his memories were that bad.Similarly, as part of the plot revolved around Jared trying to buy the neighbouring land, that could have been why Kyle wanted to go back in the first place. Country properties are often split off for children, so again the fact that the two properties are side by side is quite plausible.The next major sticking point was the injuries Kyle received by being run over by a car. But did he in fact need to be actually run over for the plot to work? In my mind, he didn’t. He could have been in the path of the oncoming vehicle which didn’t stop in time, and jumped to avoid being hit. The car then clipped him and he fell heavily. His laptop could have been run over and his injuries were mainly concussion when his head hit the bitumen.This would have been enough to warrant constant attendance during the night and cautionary care over the next few days but made the sex quite possible.I won’t go into other flaws or problems. Those above were enough to seriously upset a few readers, and understandably so.When I discussed these with Penny, she told me that the book (written before Blind Passion) was substantially rewritten as it had been originally rejected by LooseID. All, or most of the above problems happened during the rewrites.Since our long conversation over lunch yesterday when we discussed the book, Penny has provided me with a copy of the original which I've been able to check against the final version using Word's "compare" feature. This has allowed me to see where the changes have been made and confirm what I thought. For starters, there was a whole section removed from the early chapters where they discuss where Jared is headed and we discover the conflict. One of the other complaints was that the two characters didn't talk enough, it was all just sex at the start. Removing this long conversation and serious communication between the two added to this perception.The reason, I’ve gone to this length in commenting is because it brings into focus a few points that I think are worth mentioning:1. The editors should have seen these issues before publication, especially as many are easily fixed.2. Writers need to have the confidence to argue for or against changes and ensure their characters stay true to type. Penny admitted the rewrites were entirely done at her own volition, but she was influenced by what she perceived to be wanted by LooseID3. It is difficult in major rewrites for authors to keep track of what was revealed in the original version but gets “lost in translation” because the original version is still in their head. In Penny’s case, for example, the scene where Kyle looks at Jared’s driver’s licence was shown at the time in the first draft. In the final version, it’s not discovered until after it happens as we’ve been in Jared’s POV for so long. Thus Kyle’s knowledge of the coincidence becomes a WTF moment instead of being a logical progression.4. Beta readers and critique partners are a writer’s best friend. Fresh eyes seeing only the final version should have been able to pick these problems before submission.Penny admits that the plot problems detract from the book’s quality which doesn’t really reflect her standard of writing. There is a lot of good stuff there. She "shows" her scenes really well.Given her time again, she told me that she’d love to fix the problems.It would be a shame if this affected sales of her future books. From what I hear, she has two more nearly at publication stage, and is determined not to repeat the same mistakes.The only positive to result from the experience is that she has learnt a few valuable lessons, not least of which is to be wary of major plot changes. She feels her original story (which was rejected) was actually superior in many ways. In attempting to “fix it” so it would be accepted, she actually “lost the plot” and to a certain extent her characters.I know how many changes I had to make when one of my beta readers for “Caught” pointed out that the motivation for Taylor being at the cliff top weakened the plot. I made a minor tweak, but still every piece of dialogue and inner thought had to be checked and a large number of alterations were needed to reflect one simple change. So, when wholesale plot changes are made, it is difficult to do smoothly.To look at the problem from another angle, it is also not easy for inexperienced authors to maintain the courage of their convictions to argue about suggested changes. Been there, done that. However, by discovering the words to argue the case when editors/beta readers/critiquers perceive problems, the author can actually discover ways to fix said problems. Usually the reason for doing things or writing characters the way they have is dragged out in the process of explaining the original concept, thus helping the rewrite.None of this is an excuse for the quality of the book. After chatting to Penny at length on the subject, I have decided not to rate it.My main reason for writing this review, is to explain to readers what can happen with major rewrites and to encourage new authors to use beta readers and critiquers to give feedback to prevent the sorts of problems that occurred.I know from experience that a good beta reader is worth their weight in gold. Make sure though that this is a different beta reader from the one who first discovered the flaw/s as I have discovered that it is nigh on impossible to rid yourself of the memory of the original and see the altered story with fresh eyes.