Christmas on the Champs Elysees

First, I’ve uploaded even more pics from the research trip (taking me a while, I know, but y’all – I had 900 pictures!!!!) So have at – remember that any page on the left that says “NEW” has the uploaded pics. Luv y’all!! So I flew from Oslo to Paris at 6:00 a.m., which was horrible in so many ways. First, because I was leaving Norway; second, because it was so early; and third, because it was so early, I didn’t get to give my keys back to the Avis Car Hunk at the rental desk.

Truly, it sucks.

So the new batch of pics is from Oslo and Paris (See? The Champs Elysees at Christmas is one of them) so go check them out!

OK – down to business. Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever ordered or picked out a book, riveted by what sounds to be  a gripping tale. And you sit down to read – having carved out valuable time so you can make it through the whole book – and guess what?

Yup – you guessed it. The story fails in every way imaginable. And you sit there thinking “If only…” with a list for the author of what he or she could have done that would have made the story deliver on its promise to the reader.

And that’s what it’s all about, right? As a writer, you must deliver on your promise to the reader.

So what book was it? I won’t tell! But let’s just say that as someone who writes about Vikings, I picked up this book and nearly went into cardiac arrest. Wow! This person’s Viking tale sounded so definitive, so overwhelmingly gripping, would there be any room for mine?

The bottom line was what I got of reading the book, and what it meant for Odin’s End:

  1. Your protagonist must be sympathetic. This is basic knowledge for all writers, that to some degree, the protagonist must be someone we can sympathize with. Yet the heroine in the book I was reading seemed so inept, snotty, and 1-dimensional that I couldn’t find any reason that she shouldn’t die at the hands of the Vikings. In fact, I hoped for it. So there. And I have to remember to keep Adele sympathetic throughout Odin’s End. I have her making a few extremely bold choices. Will my readers sympathize with her – and accept them?
  2. Description should never outstrip dialogue or action. This one’s another basic writing tenet. What the characters are saying and doing should never get lost in the author’s description of a forest or field or whatever. Yet I found myself skipping several pages at a time in this recent read, because the author went on about the forest, or the bridge, or the trees. Now, I also have a world to build in Odin’s End – most modern readers have no concept of what happened in the Middle Ages in Norway. So I still have to build my world. But I can’t spend pages and pages on meaningless description. My characters have to live the happenings, and talk about them.
  3. Subplots should add to the story, and the story’s resolution. Now this is one that I think most beginning writers (like me!) have trouble with. But my disappointment flowed when I realized this well-established author had trouble with it, too. There were several subplots introduced. So how were they resolved? Well, the heroine just left everything behind and moved somewhere else. Well, shit. I wish I could do that – just move away and have all the messy crap in life disappear. So the subplots (which, by the way, I didn’t think added to the story all that much to begin with) just vanished with the heroine’s departure. As a reader, I didn’t buy it. And as a writer? For Odin’s End, I have to make sure I circle back and tie up the loose ends. Now, I’ll be leaving some loose ends deliberately, and I think that’s OK. But I think I need to resolve most subplots to the reader’s satisfaction by the end of the book.

So – for my writing friends – it’s nice that you take writing classes.

But I challenge you – pick up a book. One you love – or one you hate. What makes the story one that you love? What particularly works? And then look at the book you hate. What parts do you skip over? Why? Do you throw your hands up in the air at characters you’re supposed to sympathize with?

And then look at your own work… and take it from there.