Fever Sequences…Are They Lazy Writing?

Having a quick Google I can’t seem to find anything else about this so I’m not sure if it is just me being picky or if this is a genuine thing that riles other people up, maybe so much so that they just implode and don’t think to take to the internet to complain….yeah right.

I have recently started reading The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chonicle and in this book (without spoiling too much)  the main character gets into such a state that he is really ill, and he fades in and out of sleep only hearing the really interesting snippets of conversation that move the plot forward and spending enough time in his feverish stupor that time passes quite quickly moving onto the next plot point.

Now personally I think this is really lazy story telling (even though this book is absolutely amazing and you should check it out and buy it and everything don’t get me wrong) but it just seems to be a trope of the fantasy genre.

It annoys me that I can’t think of a huge list of the top of my head although I remember two books where this happens for definite (two series should I say not the exact books).

First off is the Farseer series of books that starts with Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1), now don’t quote me on this but at some point during the series the character suffers a fatal wound that you obviously know won’t kill the main character (as they’re the main character and this isn’t Game of Thrones), but the wound becomes infected and they develop a fever as they battle to recover and they dip in and out of this fever induced dream to awake and for it to be just a convenient time to get better and move on to the next big thing the bad guys are doing.

Pretty much the exact same thing happens in one of Raymond E. Feist’s book featuring Pug the magician (starting with the aptly named Magician (Riftwar Saga) ) Now, this series of books is my favourite series of books in the whole world, there are about a gazillion of them and they span such a long time frame and have so many recurring characters and new characters and you get so drawn in…BUT THERE’S THE PESKY FEVER SEQUENCE.

From what I can see it seems to be only fantasy books that do this, although I’m sure it happens in others, I just mainly read fantasy. If not this fever sequence it would be some other kind of trope so I’m not sure if it’s the lesser of some other greater evil.

What do you guys think? Know what I am on about or am I talking rubbish? Any other tropes that you really hate when it comes to novels in the genre’s you love?

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19 thoughts on “Fever Sequences…Are They Lazy Writing?

  1. I think you may be onto something here. Fever-sequences have been used an awful lot, so I myself have tried to shy away from using them and come up with new or different sequences to get snippets of info to my main characters, while still leaving them somewhat in the dark. It’s not always easy, but I think I succeed. However, sometimes a good fever is useful, but it shouldn’t be overused.

    I’ll be interested in seeing what others have to say on this topic. Thanks for bringing it up.

  2. To me, it depends on the sequence, what it says, the format, and how often it’s used within the novel. I use dreams once in a while. However, I don’t like italics. It bugs the shit out of me. I’d prefer it to be a scene, separated by asterisks (or something). I also like them to be short and to actually mean something (as in move the plot forward, somehow). Also, there shouldn’t be too many of them. That goes for daydreaming and even worse, flashbacks. I can’t say I despise flashbacks, but once again, I like them short and to the point. I DO like prologues. On the other hand, I’ve seen 50 and 100 page prologues. Aaagh! Why can’t people just get to the point and get to the action and story! I have broken the italic rule with dreams, especially when the character is dreaming and is interrupted, but the dreams were short, just a few paragraphs, short paragraphs!

    1. Is there anything you DO like Ray :P?

      I’m okay with italics as I like them when used in the context of the story is written from a narrators POV but then sometimes it can be useful in character building to read directly what the character is thinking about the current situation. Can just add for some quirky humour, but yeah its over done.

      Weirdly enough I’ve not really come across flashback a lot in books (in films is a different matter!) but the Name of the Wind is essentially one big flashback but that’s the way its set so I think it works.

      1. Daniel, there IS quite a bit I like. You just have to ask the right question! It doesn’t sound like you have much love for fever sequences when you call them lazy writing, either. As a writer, reader and editor, I have certain pet peeves and I don’t mind expressing my views on them. I don’t hate everything, but after 50+ years of reading and 20+ years of writing, I’ve learned what I like and don’t like and what I’ve seen work better than other things. I don’t expect you to agree with everything I say, but after all, you asked, so I provided. Just keep asking. Eventually I might just reply with something I like. You never know.

  3. I loved the Feist books featuring Pug when I read them some years ago, but it was too long ago to recall a particular ‘fever’ scene. As for fever sequences, I view them as I do dream sequences and flashbacks … they have a place in some novels. Overuse of them is a different matter. I think it’s all a question of personal preference, too. We all have things we don’t like in writing and I very much enjoyed reading about yours.

      1. I know there are a few of that series I haven’t yet read, although one of my daughters probably has all of them by now. I always remember the opening lines of Book 1: ‘Pug danced along the shore…’ (Although it was so long ago when I read it, I’ve probably got it wrong! ) I think he rewrote/republished Book1 some time later. You’re right, a reread is in order. 🙂

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