I laughed. I laughed little more. I intended to take this article in a different direction. That was before I finished the story. Now I know the power this master author truly wielded. Not some jokes, not quirky idiosyncrasies, not a vision for a refined landscape, but the power to tie everything together, to bring it all around for a genuinely satisfying ending.
I’ve wanted to read something funny, something universally recognized for its humor. This author was also recommended as someone I have to read. No specific book, but him. I had mentioned the author and the book store lady pulled up this title. I didn’t know one of his books from the other, so I bought it. Sure enough, funny. It started out with a humorous scene, had a few more cleaver bits, stuff that seemed like knowledge from a different time and place. Situations I wouldn’t have hit upon in a million years of condensed humor writing. As I’m reading, I’m thinking how much I’d like to ask the author where the jokes came from. Sadly, he passed a few years ago.
His legacy: Eggs are funny. Almost as funny as bananas.
The books starts with how worthless the land was. Then delves into the foundation, how it was once a seabed. Lots of details. The author did his research. But it didn’t stop with
the land. I now know more about shepherding than I ever thought possible. The brilliant part is that there were never any info dumps, no long winded and obvious expositional passages. The soil composition and the shepherding all came as part of the story. They were clear and fun to read.
I’ve been stuck for endings before and the classic advice I usually fall back on is to read the beginning and tie things up from there. It’s a little clumsy at times. Usually there’s some massaging to make the beginning, middle and ending make sense. What I got from this was an author who started out with the symbols, then wrote the story around them. He might’ve seen the elements before the characters, before the plot, even before the tone. I mean, YA, but this could’ve gotten real dark real fast.
I’ve read books before where the outlines shined to me, I’ve even written about one in this blog, but this story seemed to transcend the outline. I can’t imagine this author sitting down with a bunch of lists and charts. I’m certain there were notes, but something seemed different. It was simple. Not dumb, just simple. Clear wants and objectives, relatable internal conflict which formed the subplot, and a strong, determined main character.
All of that is easy novel writing stuff. Well, easily noted. Easily recognized. Not so easily implemented. Add to this a mature writing style, confident in the narration, perspective and similes and you get a quality novel.
Take all of this, then sprinkle it into a deep and rich bed of symbolism, the kind that encompasses the overall grounding, quirky details of an eccentric, and rustic knowledge introduced as generationally isolated ignorance in the face of intellectuals who cannot spell the word, bringing it all together in a finale that ended where it started, yet flipped completely upside down and you come away with a humorous, lighthearted YA story written by an unequivocal master for what must’ve been his own amusement.
Phwww. I’m out of breath. That was a long sentence.
Question: Have you ever been in a car accident and time seems to slow? You can see everything happening and still have a thought or two, yet you’re completely unable to react? That was how the resolution happened for me. I could see the pieces tying together moments before the character. Then, with a second thought, the symbols had always been there. Everything came together beautifully.
Therein lies the mastery. This beautiful conclusion of elements wrapped up in a simple manner, obvious with little thought, while the pieces were so unrelated as to be random background color. Almost anybody could’ve cooked them up in an outline and would still
be a good writer. (Not anyone. I’m exaggerating, but you get the point.)
This book was a little below my preferred reading level. An easy fun story without much consequence past the ten bucks I’d spent. I know a lot of mid-level novice writers who wouldn’t read it because it’s not “their genre,” but there’s such quality in this author’s work he should be required reading for all wannabe writers.
Just thought of another related symbol. This book is a gift I gave myself that keeps on giving.
I like learning from the books I read. There’s always something to take away. Some lesson I’ve heard somewhere always rings true somehow. This lesson is different. It’s revealed a next level skill and made me examine various works in progress. Not too many other pieces have got me thinking like this about my overall writing.
Is there a book or author that changed your writing style? Share who, how, and why so everyone can appreciate what you appreciate.