The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Casting about for some firm ground to stand on. Checked the shelves next to my desk for books that I know have strong plot structures and people moving around learning stuff.

Almost randomly opening Nancy Werlin's Double Helix, I'm at Chapter 29. I say "almost randomly" because I want to be near the end since I know there's quite a bit of information being learned there.

So, in Chapter 29 the MC has just entered a room with another character, where the MC is, er, learning stuff. The chapter is very short, nearly all dialog with the characters sitting facing each other. But this is interesting: it ends in the middle of the conversation. The scene isn't over, but NW chooses to end at a critical moment of learning something--or really, just after, because the conversation goes on for a line or two after that. Then Chapter 30 picks up in the middle of the conversation, which continues with nobody having moved from where they are, and after four or so pages the MC leaves the room, and the chapter ends on a hook/revelation about something else.

One notable thing is that the conversation is about plot. It advances the plot. It's not about character or world-building, but answers questions the reader has been wondering about, in a surprising way.

Now: almost randomly opening Lian Hearn's Across the Nightingale Floor to somewhere near the front, where I know there's a lot of moving from place to place going on. I think I'm actually in Chapter 1--these chapters are big-@ss long, with lots of breaks. The MC has been journeying with another major character. Lots of description and world-building. They stop at an inn, and during the night the MC overhears a conversation and learns something. MC and other character move on the next morning. Much description and world-building. Characters stop to look at terrain, and have a conversation where we learn backstory. More traveling, another night passes, characters move on. More backstory given in narration. Another night stop, another day of travel...

Already there's a problem, because when I have this much backstory and description it's boring and doesn't work. In ATNF, it's not boring and it does work. I don't know why. I'm not sure I can figure it out. Maybe because, as I thought in previous discussion with WF re. colors, Lian Hearn's affection for backstory and description comes through?

Except that I do have affection for my backstory.

Man, I don't know. I don't think I've learned anything except that I'm not Nancy Werlin or Lian Hearn. I already knew that.

Side note: To me there's a big difference between LH's ATNF and her Harsh Cry of the Heron, and I'm wondering if she outlined the latter but not the former. To me, ATNF doesn't feel outlined, but HCOTH does. (I'm referring to making outlines before starting the book, not using outlines during writing or revision.)

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