By Rachel Hauck
I found a book that looked interesting to me on Barnes & Noble’s site.
A story set in the ’30s and had some element of football in it. So I downloaded it.
Devoured it. The story captured me. The writing… I didn’t spend half my time rewriting the sentences in my head or pondering why the character was acting without proper motivation.
I told Susie, “You have to read this book!”
And, as it was set in the ’30s and had football element to it, she was keen to give it a go.
Two days later she emails. “I’m mad at you! I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. reading that book.”
By now, I’m dying to talk to her about it because it had some fascinating elements. But she halted me from gushing on and on until she finished.
THEN, we had a long talk, breaking it down, decided what worked, what didn’t, why we liked it, how we could learn from this author.
The story was told from a single point of view in first person present tense. A form Susie and I have both written in the past but due to the more popular third person past, we both changed. There’s a bit more versatility with third-past.
It was told in alternating time lines: 1931-32 and 1938.
The author had good descriptions, good turns of phrase, a solid voice.
True to form, Susie noticed the main protagonist didn’t have a large story arc, but it was understandable. And that’s a trait of literary fiction.
We discussed the changes she did make, why and how.
We discussed the romance and the relationship between the protagonist and the hero.
“I loved them together,” Susie said, “And I was rooting for them, but I never saw why. Like what did he bring to her no one else could and what did she bring to him.”
Good point. You know we talk about the “essence” of a character here at MBT and how the hero and heroine must bring something to the other no one else does. Or sees the true person inside, underneath all the muck.
Luke Danes and Lorelei Gilmore are the perfect example of a couple who are very different but at the core the same and “get” one another. They bring out the best.
Back to the book Susie and I discussed…
We loved the time frame and setting.
We loved the writing.
We loved her phrasing.
She did a great job of obfuscating and deflecting truth.
There was a little girl in the story. The little sister of the heroine. But I KNEW it was really her daughter.
The love affair from the ’31 years gone south but she ended up pregnant. To hide her shame the parents raised the baby as their own
But I was wrong!
I studied how the author wrote the scenes with the little sister to figure out how she left room for this girl to really be her own, but yet wasn’t without lying to me, the reader.
There was a hurricane at the end of the book. A big slam bam finish!
I loved this the best. Because the hurricane was only mentioned twice in the story, almost a throw away line, by the protagonist’s aunt.
But if you’re a smart author, no line of dialog is a throw away!
Turns out the hurricane was making it’s way up the eastern seaboard, wreaking havoc.
It was the perfect foil. When the “big storm” was on its way — they didn’t know it was a hurricane — but I did, as the reader.
I love when plot points are so intricately woven in to the story. But not slapping me in the face.
The ending was the protagonist marrying her man, having a family, waiting for him to return from war. I cried, it was so good.
It hit all of my emotions.
I learned from it, as a writer.
So here’s my challenge to you all.
Take a book you love, pair up with another writer friend, and discuss it. What worked, what didn’t work? What did you learn? How can you incorporate it into your own writing?
I didn’t see the weak character arc until Susie pointed it out.
But she totally missed the layered in hurricane story.
We helped each other see and learn.
And it was fun!
So, go for it. Learn from others. Share.
Happy Reading and Writing.