Monday, June 17, 2013

Always Read Closely - Fiction Tip #1

The Passage by Justin Cronin



The Passage, a huge hit (proving long books still have power!), was put out by the Ballantine Books Imprint at +Random House Books.

Story: After a secret government experiment goes wrong, a virus escapes (causing an savage type of vampirism) and nearly kills the entire population of North America.

Scene; Wolgast (a secret agent) is with a girl (Amy), who he is bringing in and who might be the key to saving civilization. They are at some type of county fair and he is telling her to act normal.

“So, let’s try it. Who’s the nice man you’re with, little girl?”
“My daddy?” the girl ventured.
“Like you mean it. Pretend.”
“My…daddy.”
A solid performance, Wolgast thought. The kid should act. “Attagirl.”
“Can we ride on the twirly?”
“The twirly. Which one’s the twirly, sweetheart?” Honey, sweetheart. He couldn’t seem to stop himself; the words just popped out.
“That.”
Wolgast looked where Amy was pointing.

I always find it amazing how tight good authors can be and this passage is a short on. The story changes direction in every single sentence. It's like a great flow of constantly shifting sections/sentences, which are always in reaction to the previous statement, which in my mind, allows the reader to have the essential interaction with the text while reading. 

Let’s look at the rhythm:
-Wolgast asks a question.
-Amy answers, but it’s with a question mark; she ventures an answers. She’s unsure and Wolgast’s next sentence confirms it.
-In so many words, he asks her to try again.
-Amy tries again, but there is no question mark, no dialogue tag.
-Wolgast reacts to Amy’s second attempt in close third person with authorial flagging (authorial flagging is "Wolgast thought") so we know exactly what he is thinking and then he actually responds with “Attagirl.”  
-Amy changes direction and asks a new question about taking a ride on a twirly.
-Wolgast asks a question in dialogue and then thinks about the words he is using to address the girl (which refers back to the ongoing thread of his own deceased daughter – a plot point) in close third person, but this time with no authorial flagging (No, he thought). And then after his thoughts on using “Honey, sweetheart,” the narrator actually responds to those thoughts in the form of giving the reader Wolgast’s reaction to them.

Read the section again and see how Cronin always keeps you involved with what isn't on the page. He creates an enormous amount of subtext with very few words and the reader easily keeps up with it.

Happy writing and always read closely.


-- 
Be Good and Be Safe,
Jane

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