August 7, 2011

So how do you write a good book?

OK. I'm just going to come out and say it. In all caps.

I LOVE HARRY POTTER.

There. It's done.

Charles and I saw the last film yesterday, and it blew me away. I think Charles was vaguely horrified by exactly how into the movie I was, as I squirmed my way through a story of which I ALREADY KNEW THE ENDING! (More CAPS - I'm a little wired...). It was a good thing I wore a dress...had I been in jeans, I'd have twisted my arms AND legs into my best pretzel imitation. As it was, I gripped his hand till my knuckles were white only twice, with much effort expended on restraint...but the tears? THE TEARS!! Ohmigosh, I swear, I could barely breathe at one point, I was so focused on NOT SOBBING!

And, like I said, I knew what was coming. I've read all the books.

It got me thinking. I mean, I know this was the movie version of the book, so it had a ton of visuals with which to engage me, but still...how in God's name did JK Rowling manage to create this world, these images, these CHARACTERS? I love them. Really love them. So how does that happen? How do Rowling and other writers (example: George R. R. Martin) get people like me so emotionally invested in characters that are ENTIRELY MADE UP?

I guess that's the genius of a good writer, right?

I think a lot of is in the flaws. Nobody in real life is perfect; therefore no characters in books should be perfect. That's the difference between a Harry Potter and an Edward Cullen, in my opinion. Rowling's creations are imperfect. Harry has a temper, he gets jealous, he has meltdowns; Edward Cullen is beautiful and perfect and flat. And while I will (unwillingly) admit to having read the entire Twilight series, too (it's like crack, I swear), I by FAR prefer Hermione Granger to Bella Swan. Hell, I even prefer Bellatrix Lestrange!

Those are the kind of characters I want to write, the Hermiones and the Nevilles and the Arya Starks and Jon Snows. I mean, really, who wouldn't? But still. I think I should spend some time looking at my characters and making sure they're not caricatures of weird angelic perfection. Bleh. Perfection is boring. Why even try?

Plus, in a world where (I love that cliche!!!) every story has been told a million times over, you've gotta have something unique. Something that is only you and you alone and is the reason people want to read your stuff. Charles sent me this article on current zombie literature, and the last book mentioned feels a lot like mine...minus the spirituality. Zombies, young heroine, vicious humans...it's all there in both books. So if I want to get anywhere, I have to make sure my writing is strong, my characters are great, and I've got something unique to offer.

So to that end, and thanks to a great, contemplative run this morning during which I swear I could've solved world hunger but instead figured out plot points in my book, I've decided that I'm done sending it out for now. I started querying already, but I've stopped, because my story is only half told. I need to flesh it out from new and interesting angles and focus on some peripheral characters, which is what I've started working on this week. So that's what I'm going to do.

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