Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Thief. Countdown: 17 days

I finished The Thief last night. I forgot how good it was . . . or maybe I never actually realized that. I read it seven? years ago after my sister read it, sequel first, and thrust it upon me, proceeding to thrust it on two of my good friends at the time (also sequel first) and it became one of those things we were constantly talking about, posting "Eugenides is mine" all over our message boards, giving each other nick-names from the book (I got to be Attolia because I was the evilest even though I was the only one NOT in love with Eugenides) etc. so I've always loved it. Of course I loved it . . . without ever having paid that much attention to the book itself. I read so many books, so fast at that time that I seldom took the time to digest them.

The most obvious thing that sets this book apart is the surprise ending but I don't know if that is the most outstanding thing about it. It was well done to be sure, everything subtly in place, but I think there is also a lot to be said about the over all tone of the book, the unusual characters of both Eugenides and the magus, the mixture of invented Greek history and mythology that feels so legitimate. I've noticed an advent of a lot of mediocre YA fantasy lately and am glad to be reminded that there is actually some genius out there as well. It's just good. An adventure story with a little philosophical contemplation, a lot of character, a beautiful setting and brilliant ending. What's not to love?

Oh yes. And I may be guilty of being just a little --a little --in love with Eugenides this time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Thief and Plot

I have started reading The Thief to my younger brothers. Somehow I thought it would be more fun to watch someone else's reaction all the way to the end while I look for all the little clues of what I know is coming. The clues are so well hidden too. They're there so when the surprise comes its believable but then every time one is mentioned there is something else that seems more important at the time. It also helps that the reader has no idea that they need to be looking for clues. Not idea at all.

Megan Whelan Turner is vicious. I know a lot of writing books and people with helpful advise will say it is cheating to withhold that kind of information from a reader but I have also never talked to anyone who has read this book and didn't love it --surprise ending and all. It can be done. It's not my style --or at least I'm not ready to try that kind of plotting but, in the hands of a master it can be done.

Nothing in writing is definite.

In my own writing I have recently turned into a plot addict. I know I've plotted more than four books in the last month. I'm stalling. I know I am. I'm doing whatever I can to avoid the work of editing --but I also hope that this particular form of stalling may help me out later on.

My last book --the one I'm avoiding having to edit --I hardly plotted at all. Or at least my plot sheets were something more like a list/time line in which sentences like "fighting and stuff happens here" appear between the more major points which more more along the lines of "somehow she finds out that. . .". I do not regret this. In many ways my manuscript would not have become what it is if I had everything laid out for myself. The constant going back and forth from beginning to middle to end, back to middle is what --for me at least --makes my story have texture and there are a lot of connections and parallels I wouldn't have made without using that method. On the other hand --yes Teviar, there is another hand -- editing would be a lot easier if I had some sort of guide in hand or I might not have so much editing to do --storywise at least --if I had followed some sort of course a little more closely.

Thus, I keep plotting along pretty much every idea I've ever had for a book. I know that when/if I sid down to actually write these there will be bits of the story I hadn't anticipated that I might follow off course and research that will put major holes in them but --who says I can't revise a plot? Nothing is set in stone (one of the things I love most about writing) but --I am hoping -- a snapshot of the story and where it is leading will help me to know where to trim. Or better yet where to stop writing so I don't have to cut out a scene I really loved later on.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Factory" and "Aunt Charlotte and the NGA Painting" --the count down continues

Thirty days left. I'm still not even done reading Instead of Three Wishes. This could be bad. Or it could not. I read novels much faster. Besides, how could I possibly say that getting closer to March 10th is bad? I'll swing by the library tomorrow and pick up The Thief.

That said, I am officially charmed by Turner's short stories, not that I wasn't before but the last two ---"Factory" and "Aunt Charlotte and the NGA Painting" --were just so . . . whimsical I think would work. Perfect. I don't know if I could break it down any more than that. As I know I've said before the art of a short story is one of those I must admire from afar.
"Factory" was simply sweet in its ending and the whole ideal atmosphere of the ghost house. It made me want to stay in an attic all day and read books and eat chocolate. One of those kinds of stories.
"Aunt Charlotte and the NGA Painting" was a little more complex but equally atmospheric in a . . . I can only use the word Whimsical again -way. Magical paintings, Venice, harlequins, kids in funny hats . . .
Both stories were simple and innocent, but not 'kid-y" --not that there's anything wrong with something a little 'kid-y' now and again, but the mythology etc. to back up the stories was sophisticated. They both had Megan Whelan Turner's famous surprise endings --the ones that are completely unexpected, but then when you look back at the rest of the story make perfect sense and you can see that she was leading you towards it all the time.
The one thing I noticed about these stories, and why I decided to write about them both together instead of separately, is the themes are almost conflicting. Not quite but almost. "Factory" is about preserving something exactly the way it is forever and "Aunt Charlotte and the NGA Painting", though I wouldn't call it a story only about change, has a passage where Charlotte is given the opportunity to do just that --stay in an Ideal painting for the rest of her life but chooses to grow up and solve puzzles instead. It is just interesting to me to see the same author's take on the same theme in two completely different ways.