Sunday, September 21, 2014

read: Million Dollar Outlines (4 stars)

Million Dollar OutlinesMillion Dollar Outlines by David Farland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great, easy-to-read guide to putting together novel length stories. It's not just a how-to, it's also a so-what and why. I think I now have a better understanding of the elements needed to create compelling stories, along with some good tips on how to make it happen.

The specific tool I was looking for was Farland's "story puzzle" device I heard mentioned on a recent episode of the "Writing Excuses" podcast. The way it was mentioned, I thought it might be at the very beginning and the rest of the book would just add depth. Farland knew better. He spends the first third of the book helping the reader understand how stories work, the next third sifting through the pieces needed to create a good story, and the last third offering some tools to make it happen. But still no "story puzzle".

Finally, there in the appendix "Exercises To Increase Productivity" it looks like I've found the story puzzle exercise and I will try to use it on my next book.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

read: Red Moon (3 stars)

Red MoonRed Moon by Benjamin Percy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm really sorry I did not finish this book. The core idea is an interesting one. The prose itself is actually quite good. I thought for sure I would just roar right through to the end.

The problem, alas, is that despite the presence of lycans (werewolves) there is no roaring here. There is violence, which often happens off-screen. There is political intrigue. There is war, which happens off-screen until halfway through the book. There is terrorism, which is also mostly off-screen after the prologue and until halfway through the book. If things started happening at the halfway point, why did I give up there? It's because I didn't care anymore.

I sort of cared about the teenage protagonists (there are two) for about the first quarter of the book. It was interesting getting to know them and their predicaments in the topsy-turvy world the author created where werewolves are real, have been around for centuries, and are due to a brain disease similar to mad cow. At least these teens were orders of magnitude more tolerable and interesting than the annoying vampires in Twilight.

I think the basic problem is that the story never became the one I thought it would be. There were too many viewpoints and diversions to add complications to the plot and not enough plot. I thought this was a thriller, but it also wanted to be about teenage romance, politics, and social justice. What I bought was a horror novel; what I got was an urban fantasy. What I wanted was more action and plot as exemplified by the opening. What I got was too much description and dialog and beating around the bush.

Kudos to the author for writing something that could be seen as the more literate alternative to Twilight (which I also did not finish, because every page was cringe-inducing). I would recommend this to fans of urban fantasy and teen angst. I had to give up on it and move on.

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