lessons learned from books read recently

February 25, 2015

1.  Logistics are not a substitute for plot.

2.  If your viewpoint character has a deep dark secret, do not keep that secret from the reader for two thirds of the book. (“She had a secret. It really was a terrible secret.  Unmentionable, really.  No — it’s really terrible!  It did not even bear thinking on, so she didn’t.  Just that, you know, she had a secret.”)  If you do, the reader will be reading to discover the secret, and not to see what happens to the character, and by the time you finally reveal that damned stupid secret, your reader’s reaction will likely be, “That’s it?  That’s the big secret?  Seriously?” and to throw the book across the room.  (Drawback of e-books — unable to throw book across room.) Instead, state the secret up front and show us how it informs the main character’s actions and thoughts.  The revelation of the secret to the other characters will be the big climactic moment, not the revelation to the reader.

3.  If in the first book of a series you establish that one of the main characters becomes something of a father figure to the other main character, then in the second book you should probably make sure those two characters interact at some point, instead of purposefully keeping them apart because you think that having them actually talk about stuff will derail the plot in which the second character does something stupid that the former character might presumably talk her out of.  Don’t jettison an entire prior book’s worth of characterization just to make the plot easier for you to handwave into existence.


6 Responses to “lessons learned from books read recently”

  1. amiegibbons15 Says:

    I get 2 and 3, but what does 1 mean? 🙂

  2. carriev Says:

    I’ve read several books now where the characters sit around talking about how to solve to problems, or the books spends an inordinate amount of time talking about how to get from point A to point B in the story, or describes to you the history of theater while the main character is going to see a play, and it all sort of looks like things are happening when really you could cut these sections out and the plot, what there is of it, would still happen all by itself…

  3. Shara Says:

    And suddenly I want to know what book(s) prompted this blog post! 🙂

  4. Tim Schmidt Says:

    I’ve thrown a few books across rooms. One book I was reading did prompt me to throw a kindle across the room. It survived.


  5. The wife has a ton of pillows on the bed usually, makes a good place to throw a book no matter the construction.

  6. jacqie Says:

    The inverse of what you just described is one of my biggest pet peeves. That would be:

    People are keeping a SECRET from the main character. The reasons:

    1. It’s not the right time to tell you.
    2. You can’t handle the truth.
    3. I’m afraid you won’t love me anymore if I tell you.
    4. You won’t believe me.
    5. You’re too young.

    or 6. All of the above.

    Invariably, actually having this knowledge would have kept the main character out of trouble, allowed them to handle whatever’s coming after them because of the SECRET, or helped them understand strange things that were happening to them. The SECRET can be a very lazy way of building tension that keeps the author from having to think of a smarter way to drive the plot.

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