Monday, December 14, 2009

Why I Regretted the End

Last week I posted a review of the (not even released in this country!!!) new Marian Keyes novel, The Brightest Star in the Sky. I said that I regretted the book ending. So what was it that captured my attention so well, apart from the usual mysterious elements Marian brings to each of her novels to make them so good?

Unforgettable characters
Some of them weren't even terribly likable, but there were some incredibly strong characters with amazing quirks. So quirky and so funny that I was thoroughly entertained. Chiefly, this consisted of Lydia, a diminutive taxi driver with a difficult family situation. Her manner of speech and her rage is just hilarious. She clear about who she is, and she's confident. Some of my favorites from her included a trademark "Ouuuutttttt!" when she didn't like a passenger, or when people were chatty, she would turn around and ask them if they had accepted Christ Jesus into their lives--with the Christ specifically coming before the Jesus for more impact (I think this is funny; she only did it on the assumption that people would stop talking to her). Or how her Polish roommates referred to her at the "evil pixie," and how she wasn't willing to stand for anything less than what she thought she deserved, or how she would tell people to "Up! Shut!" instead of a mere "shut up!" Lydia is just one example of brightly painted characters, but she was thoroughly engrossing. Loading your characters with strong traits makes them memorable and likable.
(Tomorrow we'll talk more about likable characters.)

Humor
Marian (who, as you know, I wish was my BFF) is very funny. She doesn't lay it on thick for the sake of trying to be funny, though. She gives her characters zingers throughout and they're so well-paced that by the end you can pick out some great places where you howled with laughter. I didn't howl all the time, just some of the time. Just enough.

Interesting situations
My BFF Marian always gives her characters high stakes and enough trouble so that you care about them and want to see what else they do by the end. I don't have any specifics on this, but it definitely translates into making sure your characters have a compelling enough story problem. If all your characters want is cooked spinach, mmmm, I mightn't care by the end, then. However if they want to, say, get over the hideous sexual attack they suffered that is totally ruining their marriage, then yes, I believe I might care.

An interesting overall premise
Marian, BFF of Sierra, has always had engrossing and smart premises for her novels. This one is no different--it's the premise that a being has landed in an apartment building and it will affect each of the tenants. It's a fresh way of handling a multiple POV story. Ask yourself: how many times has your premise been done before? In the case of my novel, I know without question that it's been done over and over. But I'm not sure the other accompanying elements have been done. I've hopefully freshened up an old trope.

These are but a few of the winning traits of the book. What are some of the winning traits you see in your favorite novels?

2 comments:

Stephanie Thornton said...

I like emotions and I want the full gamut. I want to cry and I want to laugh. The Secret Life of Bees is a perfect example- it had me laughing out loud and then pulling out the box of Kleenex.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Thanks for the comment Stephanie! I like that emotions are what get you.

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