Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reading While Writing... "The Opposite of Love" by Julie Buxbaum

When I read, I read for enjoyment and the craft of writing. In my "Reading While Writing" blog posts, I list and discuss the lessons I feel each book contained for me. Feel free to follow along and add your own lessons learned :)

craft lesson #1: cover art...Make sure the WHOLE title is visible!!!

Don't let the pic to the right fool you. You can't even see the words "the opposite of" on the book I have. They're yellow. On a white background! Looking at the book without squinting, the title just looks like "LOVE".

I'd never pick up a book titled "LOVE".

Why? What smart ass titles a book "LOVE"?... Like, what can they teach me about love that I already don't know?

But a book called, "the opposite of LOVE". Now that gets my attention. I know exactly what the opposite of love is - we all do. But how did this author pull it off? What kind of story line did they wrap around their meaning? I'd pick that book up in a heart beat. Thankfully I plucked this beauty from the online library tank. I'd never have touched it at a book store...LOVE...

It might not have to do with the exact craft of writing, but you can't sell your book if a reader can't read the
, a good lesson I learned from this book is...

#1: Make sure the WHOLE title is visible!!!

Someone needs to be fired...

Cover art aside, Julie Buxbaum wrote this contemporary fiction with brilliance. I loved it. I love her voice. Her writing style. Her main character. Aside from the font color snafu (I'm a HUGE font-freak), the book is a definite read. It's fun. It's light. It's heavy (but not too much). It hits right to the point. I wish I didn't borrow it from the library so I could pass it along to a fellow blog reader! It was that good, I'd give it away, knowing someone else would enjoy it just as much.

And it contains a great number of lessons to be learned too about the craft of writing. Just a few items that kept popping up on the radar. Not ones that would brake the bank, of course. But take home lessons nonetheless:

writing craft lesson #2: Use Contractions!

People do not talk like this. They do not, could not, should not, cannot, have not... Especially dialogue. When an author, like Buxhaum, so sparingly uses contractions in their work, it pulls the reader right out of the story. Why? The reader gets yanked because the flow of dialogue, the sound of inner dialogue is unnatural. It does not flow. It does not sound like real people are talking to each other, thinking in their head. Therefore, the illusion of fiction is broken. You need contractions. They are your friends. When wanting your readers to stay in the story, to feel part of the world you have created, you have to keep it real. Natural. You have to contract words! It is how people speak the English language. (See how this short paragraph with NO contractions is a bit painful to read? Try a whole book.) It was painful. Enough. To be. Annoying. (that, I borrowed from Buxbaum's writing style ;)

writing craft lesson #3: Diversify Big Statements

I don't want to give the book away, but a word like "disembowelment" can be overused if used more than - oh, let's say - three times in one book. It's a big word. It's a big statement. I get what the author was trying to get at, and I understand that the book was written in first person (therefore we get a lot of one-sided inner dialogue, and people tend to use the same words over and over again.) BUT. It wasn't even the point in the end. So why the overuse? I understand it was the journey... and that's important. However. A few differing words that mean the same thing could have been used. Or a few differing images. Not always the same shovel to the insides technique. Again. Annoying.

writing craft lesson #4: Keep Consistency in Your Characters!

If you, all of a sudden, decide that your MC should have this great nervous tick or start using this quirky self-soothing technique while you're writing chapter 25, MAKE SURE to go back and edit that quirk or tick INTO the rest of the book! A person going through an emotional battle has problems WHILE fixing themselves, their lives. Not AFTER they are whole and at peace. You don't, all of a sudden, create self-soothing techniques to help you get through your day. Not at the end of the book! How irritating. It was.

The MC developed a real quirky self-soothing technique that didn't present itself until chapter 25. Twenty-five! I'm trained in psychology, so I know, this is not the way it works. You need to keep your characters consistent from beginning to end. IF your MC is working through something and is a little, eh, odd, to start with, that's where the quirks live. At the beginning, while building your character through the early chapters.

Then, throughout the story-line, the MC grows, evolves more and more, and the quirks become less and less. Self-soothers, hearing voices, nervous ticks - whatever you want them to have. All these thing, they lessen and lessen over time until they gradually disappear by the end of the book. Maybe one little thing lingers, but that's it! Only one more time...and that's humorous ;)

But, OMG. Don't forget to include the tick/quirk you started all the way in chapter 25 back into the beginning of the book. And then keep it going all the way through. That's what's editing is all about. Going back through and making sure your characters are consistent. And evolve correctly.

OTHER THAN THAT (wow, there were more radar bleeps than I thought) the book was a keeper. On my next to read list will definitely be Buxbaum's new novel, "After You".

Only, what to read next...something different...any suggestions?