Literary Fiction

My bookclub chose The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2004 Pulitzer Prize winning fiction). As I listened to the book (I knew I'd never be able to read it), I marked the difference between it and commercial fiction. The story is set in pre-civil war Virginia. It is primarily about a black slave owner and the people around him. Jones created a fascinating glimpse into the past and provided a rich setting to place his myriad of characters. But in doing so, he moves back and forth and goes down so many character side roads the book is confusing as heck to read.

Our bookclub members had mixed feelings about it. Only one person really loved it. As a reader and a writer it both fascinated and frustrated me. Because Jones jumps around so much, you don't get much opportunity to meet a character and sink into his story. I'm only a tenth of the way into the book, but I can see that I'd like a chapter for each of the characters. Once we get to know them, he could bounce them around as much as he wants.

While I listened, I wondered how he went about writing the book. It's almost like free association. He's talking about one character and when that one meets another, suddenly we're off learning about that person's family and history.

As blog posts go, this one wasn't very interesting. I've been studying plot, structure, pacing and characterization lately. This book just meandered. And I wanted to comment on the difference.

With the partial in the mail, I'm back to working on my blackmail story. The tone of the first chapter has changed. I think I've beefed up my hero's alpha qualities. I think the formula for my alpha boys is cold confidence. Normally I tend to write my boys hot: angry, frustrated, off balance. I think alphas need to be completely in their element. It's an interesting balance to keep them utterly sure of themselves and throw a big conflict into their path at the same time. From Dwight Swain we learn that a scene involves Goal, Conflict, Disaster. I need to get better at having my alphas react to disaster.

What aspect of writing characters do you struggle with?

Today's goal: finish chapter 2 of Bending
Yesterday's accomplishment: deleted 1500 words (wait, is this an accomplishment?) and revised chapter 1.
What I'm grateful for: It's almost Friday
Quote: "It is not a bad idea to get in the habit of writing down one's thoughts. It saves one having to bother anyone else with them." -Isabel Colegate