Lessons from My Reading

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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Monday, July 23, 2012

Cliches or Conventions: How Does Your Story Unravel?

One convention for a successful story is to start with a prolog where your villain lurks in some hidden place plotting some nefarious deed ... or with the process of the villain performing the first of his nefarious deeds.

Before you wrinkled your nose and say, "Eeewww. A prolog." Prologues are a useful convention -- or a cliche -- where importantl information is given. No. Not an info dump, but a judicious clue as to what your protagonist faces in the book.

That said, I'd like to think out loud about how most mysteries are put together. Why? Because all good story lines have an element of mystery which the reader wants answered. If you don't have one, you decrease your odds the reader will keep reading. 

One of the current novel conventions is grabbed directly from the movies. You start in the middle of some action and give the reader only enough information to guess what might be going on. The reader is in the middle of the story line right from the beginning. 

Then, there's Carol O'Conner. She starts her books with an incident ... part of an ordinary day in the life of a homicide detective. That incident creates the thread that begins to unravel as soon and Mallory and her partner tug on it. Each tug leads to a new incident until, this time, they are chin-deep in a complicated tale of corruption worthy of Wall Street. 

Yeah, O'Connell has created one of the most noir heros going [IMHO] in the New York City detective, Kathy Mallory.

One of the things I like about O'Conner's novels ... are the multiple viewpoints. In The Chalk Girl one of the stars is a eight-year-old who stumbles into the middle of the plot when she's kidnapped by one of the victims. The writer's skill shines as she switches from the damaged child's viewpoint to the various adults involved in unraveling of this mystery. The child is key because she causes Mallory's friend Charles to stand up to the detective. Quite a different role from his usual limp dish-rag one.

If I gave stars, this would be a five.
Why? Because I just swatted the impulse to reread the book away.

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Had a little shock when I looked at my stats other day. Discovered this will be the 300th blog I've written -- which make's me wonder. Is there anyone out there that started reading this blog in the Fall of 2009? Don't have any fabulous prize for you, but it would still be interesting to know.

Also, wanted to say that I'm not stopping my blog. I haven't been blogging because the stupid neck & hip decreased my sitting time. Also, I wanted to get the ending on "For the Price of a Pig". [The Half-Elven novella is currently fermenting.]  Also, there's the little deal of organizing the family reunion BBQ. Yeah. Details.

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