Writing is a really weird profession. You live your normal life and then out of the blue--some random fake people catch your attention and you have this whole story in your head you have to see through to the end.
I haven't had any fake people tap me on the shoulder recently, which gives me an odd sense but also allows me time to juggle the other 1,001 things going on in my life. Round Robins are sort of my only source of literary release because otherwise I'm chipping away at being an art history research assistant (the type of writing and editing that really, really hurts your head but it super interesting), and working at the bookstore, so I always perk up when Rhobin sends us a new theme for the month:
Topic for July: What makes a novel memorable?
1. The characters
Duh, right? I mean, of course. But I have to point this out. I've read plots that are superdy-duper amazing, but the trope of the "I'm not like the other girls" girl who's borderline mean and don't need no man really turns me off. That's just one of a handful, for example. The characters carry the story. If they suck or irk you, no matter how five-star that plot it, you're going to drop it like a hot potato.
Take Sir Percy Blakeney ("Sink meh!" [oh, you've never seen the 1980 film with Anthony Andrews and Sir Ian McKellen, either?] It's okay, I only saw it two days ago and it's not as amazing as the book) from The Scarlet Pimpernel, for example. (What, say you? You've never read this? Get your hands on a copy, now, say I!) I really adored his character; and not just because Batman and 007 are apparently based off him. One, yes, he's this suave, golden-hearted Brit who dons ridiculous disguises to save aristocrats from the French Revolution. But two, he also plays himself off as an idiotic simpering fop, so much so that a French agent catches him at a rendezvous point for the Scarlet Pimpernel and doesn't suspect him for even half a millisecond. Also, his secret symbol/signature is a little red pimpernel (a wildflower, seen above).
Characters can catch me because
I relate to them (Lady Jane in My Lady Jane, Clay in Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore)
I am afraid of them (Chauvelin in The Scarlet Pimpernel, that horrifying monk guy or any of the antagonists in The da Vinci Code series)
I want to be friends with them (Razo, Finn, Enna and Ani/Isi in the Books of Bayern series, literally everyone from Harry Potter)
or they're so cool I'm just really impressed with them (Magnus Bane in the Mortal Instruments books) etc., etc., etc.
I'm such a fan when plot twists surprise me; when the writing is so ingenious and imaginative that my eyes rush to follow along. I'm thinking of The Night Circus and its fetes of magical tents and experiences, or even Water for Elephants because, whoa, August was terrifying and I really wasn't sure how all that was going to end up. If I can tell what happens next, it gets kind of hard to finish the book. Complex story lines are also really exciting.
4. The Emotional Range
Did I snort, roll my eyes, or actually laugh out loud? Did I weep and my face get so puffy that my college room mate had to ask if I was alright? Did I get so nervous that I may or may not've skipped to the end of the chapter to see if the main character was okay--and then my heart jumped because they weren't? I don't think I've ever done all of these for any one novel, but eliciting a physical response out of someone looking at a piece of paper is always impressive.
5. And Lastly, Beautiful,
Sometimes I simply moon over the writing style. I just started Everyone Brave is Forgiven and I got a little heady. Chris Cleave, the author, could be describing a bag of chips and I'd probably have to fight a swoon. The same with All the Light We Cannot See (hint: I'm a sucker for WWII books). I don't know why certain combinations of words have such a more profound effect on me than others. But when an author uses similes I've never dared dream of, or describes something so clearly that yes, I am in that London garret in 1939 holding that freshly cooked jar of jam while one of the characters says something I've always felt but never had articulated into words....I'm blindsided by the beauty of it.
Alright, enough of me muttering. What about you? Favorite book? Character? Something you read that absolutely enamored you? Toss me a comment and then follow along the list to see how these other authors feel!
Dr. Bob Rich
Tina Gayle is the guest of today's post! Tina Gayle grew up a dreamer and loved to escape into the world of books. After a number of different jobs, she decided to try her hand at writing. Her romantic novels touch the heart and explore the heartaches of falling in love and being a woman.
Married thirty years, she and her husband love to travel and play golf. If you’d like to read the 1st chapter of her books, visit her website.
Buy your lover a balloons instead of flowers and give them as a special gift.
Blurb for Summer’s Growth:
In the spirit-haunted Winston estate in Ohio, rooted in time and occupied by the lingering ghosts of a great family, the torch is about to pass...
Mattie Winston, sober, sensible, and steady, has served as Keeper to the family for decades. Amber Harrison, hovering on the edge of flunking out of college, unsure what she wants out of life, has barely even heard of the Winston estate. The family, however, has decided that it's time for the changing of the guard. These two exceptional women soon find themselves dealing with violence, murder attempts, and old family mysteries while each finding the love of her life. Two romances and a growing friendship, all twined around a brooding family tragedy, make for an outstanding paranormal mystery offering depth and charm beyond the commonplace. The growing love of Amber and Carter and of Mattie and Quincy offer readers a tender and engaging first novel in a winning new paranormal series.
Was she insane? Why agree to spend time at a place she’d never been before with people she didn’t know?
Fear and eagerness warred in her stomach. Breathing rapidly, she inhaled the scent of her peppermint gum. The crisp fragrance reminded her of her grandfather’s breath mints, and she took another deep breath to calm her shaky nerves.
Past the point of no return, even if the adventure ended up to be a free trip to nowhere. Whatever happened she’d see it through.
The soft leather seat cooled her skin. Tired from her long trip to Ohio, she leaned her head on the plush headrest. She used the relaxing motion of the car to recover some of her energy and turned her head to view the landscape outside the car.
Different from Southern California, no lollypop trees or car-packed freeways met her gaze. The road supported only a few cars moving along at a steady pace. Calm pastureland lined the highway with wildflowers dancing in the wind. Large limbs darting in every possible direction, small leaves announced spring to the world with their bright green foliage. No structures marred the view or broke the serene pleasure of the unencumbered land.
Yet, they’d only left the airport a few minutes ago.
Her mind wandered to the place where they were headed. She shot her silent driver a quick glance. She’d questioned the portly old gentleman about Winston Manor when she’d first arrived. He’d said they needed to get going and refused to comment beyond that.
Once in the car, she’d tried again. Her blue eyes caught his in the rear view mirror, and he assessed her value before glancing away.
Amber brushed her long, blonde hair back off her shoulder and tugged on her cotton tee shirt to straighten out the wrinkles.
“How long until we arrive at Winston Manor?” she asked.
He didn’t respond, almost as if he hadn’t heard. Unwilling to be rude, she decided to settle back in her seat.
The answers would come once she arrived at Winston Manor.
Read First Chapter of "Summer's Growth"
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