I love to read. I love novels. I even named one of my children after the heroine in a book. I know good writing when I read it, but I even love to read what some people refer to as “trash.” If it has a good story, I am hooked. My favorite books are read more than once. I like sagas of English country houses, mysteries, bodice rippers, historical page turners, and Nora Ephron.
Here’s the thing: I am confounded as to how a person sits down at a keyboard or legal pad and ends up with a book. Most books have at least a hundred pages. This means that the writer has to think up something complicated enough to fill those pages. There is the plot. Boy can meet girl, but there have to be plot surpises, twists and turns. Or somebody has to be killed mysteriously. This is just a start. There has to be some sort of interesting setting. Ireland during the famine. The middle ages. The inside of a brothel. Describing settings well requires tons of research on the part of the writer.
Plot and setting? Not enough. What about characters? They have to have passions, interesting quirks, demons, or at the very least good looks. They have to have interesting names, convoluted family relationships, and either incredibly exiting or completely boring occupations. They must be people that the reader can identify with, love, or hate.
To top off all of this, there has to be some sort of conflict or threat. Without this, any book (well, Proust may be an exception) is flat and one dimensional. So writers have to create problems, skeletons in closets, adultery, murders, wars, and time travel. All of these conflicts have to be very well crafted and then either resolved or at least settled enough to satisfy the reader but leave enough room for sequels.
The devil is in the details. Characters and plots without descriptions are lifeless. Was the trim on the damsel’s bodice gold or bejeweled? Was the sword inscribed? Just how did the consumptive’s cough sound? Were the bushes outside the window magnolias or lilacs? Writers have to give us enough details to bring the story to life in front of our eyes, but know when too much is too much. If I know the thread count of the linen sheets in the four poster, I am most likely going to skip a few pages.
And the actual writing? I now have a number of friends who have published books, and all of them say that they have spent YEARS writing just one book! I cannot fathom this. If a column takes me longer than an hour to write, I consign it to the “recycle bin.” If I had to spend more than a week with a set of characters, I would get sick of them, kill them off and create a fresh crew. As an “A to B” writer, my plots, conflicts and details would most likely be:
Ferdinand and Daphne meet. He’s a knight; she’s a lady’s maid. They are both lookers. They fall in love. He gets killed. She becomes a nun. The end.
So I have to salute the real writers who have made my life interesting, filled many a lonely night, scared the pants off me, made me cry, plucked my heartstrings, and filled me with awe. I would like to thank and congratulate my writer friends by listing them here, along with their books. I strongly suggest you read them. Since the holidays are right around the corner, you might want to buy a few of them as gifts. All of these writers have books on Amazon. Their talents are stupefying.
Claude Bouchard, “Vigilante”
Bill Breckenridge, “Bernie Bolts Bergen, A Cat’s Adventure Tale”
Barbara E. Brink, “Entangled”
Lisette Brodey, “Crooked Moon”
Elizabeth Buchan, “Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman”
Marcia Fine, “Stressed in Scottsdale”
Mrs. Stephen Fry, “Stephen Fry’s Diary”
Beth Hoffman, “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt”
Dawn Hullender, “Visions Awake”
Laurie King, The Mary Russell novels
Glenys OConnell, “Judgement by Fire”
Harriet Smart, “Daughters of Blane”
Elissa Stein, “Stewardess, Come Fly With Me”
I also have two wonderful book blogging friends. Visit them for wonderful reading suggestions:
“Pen and Paper” http://pettywitter.blogspot.com
“Find Your Next Book Here” http://www.lifewithbooks.com