M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Not So Ghostly Review #3: McCrumb's St. Dale

Not all ghosts are ectoplasmic wonders. Sharon McCrumb's 2005 book St. Dale gives readers a tour of various stock car speedways and racing history. Dale Earnhardt [ senior], a popular stock car racer who hit the wall, literally, appears as a ghost. Adding to the "mystery", the specter is so real he can be confused with an impersonator, who also tours the the speedways where Earnhardt once competed.

Set in the south, where some people consider stock car racing close to religion, Earnhardt is cast as a secular saint who helps some of the characters of St. Dale out of their personal "troughs of despair". McComb uses the  "travel tale" motif, an updating of the Saint Canterbury Tales, if you will, where the characters, take a Memorial tour of the tracks where Earnhardt won races and died.

McCrumb's characterizations, as always, are magnificent. She takes a bus-sized load of characters and manages to create three dimensional images for all of them, except for maybe the bus driver. Granted Chaucer earned his laurels by writing some of the first English non-religious fiction. McCrumb added to her laurels by creating a series set away from her more mysterious Ballad series.

The slim plot in St. Dale sort of bothered me this time around. [I've read the book several times] This may be because I'm struggling with the plotting my next story. I'm stumped on what to do with my characters, the characters I haven't even outlined yet. Oh, I have some vague ideas like "disgraced scholar" but can't figure how the world is going to slap them up the side of the head. All my ideas so far have reeked of cliche.

Did discover a new site to follow which offers a nice crib list for plotting, though. Jon Bard and Laura Backes over at Write 4 Kids highlighted a nice blog by Thomas W. Young [with link] on "You Can't Have a Plot Without Conflict". I hadn't thought of their third suggestion: what messes up your characters life and sends them on a journey.

Anyone for another book on a young adolescent forced to flee his/her home to seek his/her destiny?

In one possible story, an academic scandal sent my character into deep space where she got a job on a corporately owned planet. Only I can't figure out who's the villain of the piece ... except for some vague, ambitious corporate flunky. Obviously, I have to turn that one on it's head and make him/her at least a positive secondary character.

Deciding what to do is difficult. Maybe I should just sign up for NaNoWriMo and write even though I know I won't get close to 50,000 words. At least at NaNoWriMo, they care more for volume than quality ... until you start revising stage.

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