Thursday, November 20, 2008

You've got a problem if . . .

I like to give books to my friends and family for Christmas. That's what happens when you've worked as a bookseller. YOU LIKE TO GIVE BOOKS TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS. They see you coming and they're just all hey! I wonder what she's giving us for Christmas THIS year?

Anyway. I bought books last night for my brother's three youngest boys who are 13, 11 and 8 years old. I decided to take them home and read them before wrapping them (another reason why I like to give books--I get to read them myself first). I started with the book I'm giving to the 13 year-old--a mystery set against the backdrop of professional sports. He'll love it.

My thoughts so far. The writing itself is kind of pedestrian, even a little awkward (or as we former English teachers like to say "AWK"). But after reading the first few pages I knew EXACTLY where the book is headed. By this I mean I know who the main characters are and what the problem is they have to solve. I can't tell you how much I admire this. One of the criticisms I often receive from my writers' group is that they don't know what the book I'm writing is about soon enough. Does that make sense?

Your characters must have a problem to solve. And it has to be clear what that problem is early on. And (referring to my title up there) you've got a problem if you don't have a problem.

2 comments:

Pink Ink said...

Good pointer, Ann. Gosh, I hope my current mss passes muster in that regard. I know one I wrote earlier this year didn't, and I will have to rewrite the first 50 pages extensively.

Lisa B. said...

Do you think this is truest of YA fiction, or of all fiction? One of the things I find wonderful about a book is if it pulls me in for whatever reason--maybe the voice of the main character--but the problem keeps unfolding, so you can't pin the novel down quite so quickly . . .