Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Alan Bradley’

It’s summertime, and thoughts of summer bring to mind pictures of people lounging in the sun, reading. I read all the time for many reasons, but sometimes I like to give myself the gift of reading guilt-free, just for fun. After all, reading has always been my most enjoyable non-writing activity.

Looking back to my youth, I loved the Nancy Drew series. Two main genres that most intrigued me at that time were mysteries and horse stories. (I was fortunate to live on a farm with horses, so that was a dream come true.)

In high school, I discovered classic novels, including Russian titles such as Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov (didn’t ever get through that last one).

When my children were young, I couldn’t find as much time to read, settling for short books on how to keep your sanity while parenting young children. And children’s books, of course.

Then I discovered Bodie Thoene. She was the author who inspired me to venture into writing. I found her books bold and intense and impressive, and wanted to write like her. (I’ve since realized that no matter what books and writers I admire and emulate, I still must find my own voice and style.)

My current interests vary widely. I have always loved historical fiction, and I should, since that’s primarily what I write, but I also enjoy good contemporary fiction. I’m on the library committee at our church, so I get to read lots of different Christian authors: Jeanette Windle, Joel C. Rosenberg, Heather Day Gilbert, Patrick W. Carr, Terri Blackstock, James Scott Bell, Angela Hunt, Jill Eileen Smith, Dani Pettrey, Dee Henderson, Siri Mitchell, to mention a few.

photoMy preferred secular books are Alexander McCall Smith’s The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series, Alan Bradley’s Flavia deLuce series, and Kate Morton’s novels. I also stumbled upon Lorena McCourtney’s Ivy Malone cozy mysteries, which I love. Add to that my complete series of The Cat Who books by Lilian Jackson Braun, which I’ve read and re-read for easy, engaging entertainment.

I could go on, but I’d love to know what some of your favorite titles are. What do you read just for fun?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

writerPlato said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.”

Kimberly Yuhl suggests you have eight words to capture your reader’s attention.

Rob Weatherhead states in the article, Say it Quick, Say it Well (please excuse the grammar), that the attention span of a modern internet consumer is short. “Studies have shown that 32% of consumers will start abandoning slow sites between one and five seconds.”

Marcia Hoeck, in her article How to Capture Your Reader’s Attention, writes: “You only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention, so don’t take chances with clever, cute, or insider language or visuals, which are often lost on people.”

Whether or not these statistics apply specifically to fiction writing is immaterial. They apply to today’s readers. Knowing these facts should motivate us to put extra effort into creating captivating openings for our stories.

I find that examples aid my understanding, so let’s take a look at some classic examples of beguiling beginnings:

* (my favorite) “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” This from C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

* “On November the 21st, the day of her forty-seventh birthday, and three weeks and two days before she was murdered, Rhoda Gradwyn went…” The Private Patient, by P.D. James.

* “When the coppers talk about Marsha Morgan, they start with her death—how she fell off the Chesapeake Belle and drowned in the Miles River.” From Ron and Janet Benrey’s Little White Lies.

* Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner begins this way: “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.”

* Caroline Way’s Confessions from a Farmer’s Wife: “I am the last one. Of those whose lives I will speak of here, I alone remain.”

* Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: “It was as black in the closet as old blood. They had shoved me in and locked the door.”

What do these examples have in common?questions

– they are concise

– they raise questions for which we want answers

– they create a mood

– they suggest the kind of story that’s coming (plot driven / character driven)

– they draw us into the story

How can we create a similar effect?

– we must decide what we want to convey; what is the most important aspect of the story?

– we must ask the right questions

– we must decide what the mood of our story will be

– we must know the style of story we are writing

– we must revise and polish until the beginning is irresistible

fascinated reader

Having said all this, remember that you can tweak your beginning many times, especially after the ending has been written. After all, “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from” T.S. Eliot.

Read Full Post »

blog-hop-for-writers imageMy favorite genre is historical fiction. Of course, if you know me you might expect me to say that since I’ve read scads of them and have had three complete historical novels published, as well as one being released in installments (shameless self-promotion here).
River volume 4

However, I also love reading mysteries such as Anne Perry’s Victorian series (William Monk / Charlotte and Thomas Pitt), The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun, and Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache stories. I could list countless others (Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books are another example), but these are books I read. I have yet to publish a mystery of my own, although I am currently editing a cozy mystery.

That brings me to another favorite genre: cozies. If you are unfamiliar with the term “cozy,” it is a subgenre of the mystery category in which violence is limited and mostly off-stage (my own definition). Something you can curl up with on a dark and stormy night without subsequent nightmares ensuing.

Speaking of genres, I recently read a great romance set in Scotland that made me want to hop on a plane to Skye to see the place for myself. Thanks to Carla Laureano for the experience. So although I don’t usually read dedicated romance novels, this one provided a lovely balance of character, plot and setting to keep me hooked from the beginning.

I also have a dear friend who writes gripping Christian suspense, which is a good balance to some of my other reading. Janet Sketchley’s Heaven’s Prey is a recommended read, but I couldn’t write suspense either.

Sometimes we all need a good belly laugh, a book that will make us forget our troubles. I love to read humor, but it’s a challenge to write.

So if I was forced to reveal my favorite genre, I would have to say, “yes!”  To all the above and more. Fiction has “food groups” and I like to have a balanced diet. I think it’s important for readers and writers to read widely. As they say: so many books; so little time.

my library photo

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: