Thursday, September 02, 2010

Get Off The Page

Normally, I eschew too much self promotion. But because this is my blog and I get to make the rules, here’s a review snip from Long and Short Reviews for NOWHERE TO HIDE (But don't worry--we'll get to writing in this post. Promise.)

Terry Odell creates characters that the reader can empathize with and cheer on as they cope with overwhelming challenges. She also writes a love scene that makes one apt to agree with Colleen that “sex rocks”. Her writing style is so smooth that she seems to disappear and the characters come alive so the reader is in the moment with what is going on.

Nowhere to Hide captivates and keeps one turning pages.

But, since it wouldn’t be right to spend the whole blog talking about a nice review, let’s look at it from the author’s standpoint.

Anyone care to gander a guess at what line in the review makes me the happiest?

Characters, maybe? After all, I’ve always stressed how important characters are, how good characters can carry a lousy plot, but lousy characters won’t make a difference even if the plot is exemplary.

Or what about the ‘sex rocks’ comment? Nowadays, it’s hot that sells, at least in romance. It’s always nice to know you got it ‘right’ (even if it freaks out your kids).

Or the page-turning comment? After all, what author doesn’t want to hear remarks like, “I couldn’t put it down.”

While I definitely wouldn’t discount any of the above, the fist-pump-moment for me was this: “Her writing style is so smooth that she seems to disappear…

And that, I think, is the ultimate compliment. In the past, I’ve discussed voice, and how important it is to find your voice and let it shine through on the page. Doesn’t this comment by the reviewer seem contradictory to that premise?

No. Definitely not. Because, if you want the reader caught up in the story and the characters, you, the author have no business being on the page. Every word on the page should seem to come from the characters, whether it’s dialogue or narrative. You’re the conduit for the story and the characters. You’re there so they shine, not the reverse.

I’ve said it before…when you hit the editing phase, anything that sounds “writerly” gets cut. Ruthlessly.


Maryannwrites said...

I guessed right, and I agree that that is one of the highest compliments a writer can receive. That is also true of actors. Have you noticed in films how some, like Pacino, can get so deep into a character you forget who the actor is? When that kind of creative magic happens in books and movies and plays it is wonderful.

Jannine Gallant said...

Great post. I had to laugh about the freaking out your kids comment. Against my better judgement, I let my 13 year old read my book. There's sex in it, but it isn't graphic. She said, "Gee, Mom, you actually do know how to write, but the sex part was stupid!"

Mary Ricksen said...

That's my kinda book! Magic is the right word.
Go Terry Go!!!

Terry Odell said...

Maryann, yes, I think having a reader so caught up in the story that they forget it's really a book is a grand compliment.

Jannine - my kids were older (married even) and it still freaked them out.

Mary - THANKS! I'm sure trying.

Joanna Aislinn said...

Congrats on what sounds like a wonderful review, Terry. I would have fist-pumped for a comment like that too :) Now about the OTHER parts of the book maybe I need to check those out for myself... ;)

Joanna Aislinn
Dream. Believe. Strive. Achieve!
The Wild Rose Press

Terry Odell said...

Joanna - thanks, and of course I'd LOVE for you to check out those other parts!

Terry Stonecrop said...

I so agree on the importance of characters. That makes a book for me when I'm reading.

And love the disappearing author. You do, too. I was lost in your book and caught up in your characters. And I have a major wondering mind.

Terry Odell said...

TerryS, thanks so much. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool, so to know you liked a book is a wonderful compliment.My mind wanders, which might be why audio books don't work well for least in a book, you can flip back and pick up where you got distracted.

Jemi Fraser said...

That's an awesome review - totally agree with it having read the books :)

You're right about the line - that's a great one. Congrats!

Terry Odell said...

Jemi, thanks so much for reading the books, and glad you liked them.

Jud said...

I can think of several professions in which invisibility is a virtue: translation, interpreting, private investigation, etc. Writing isn't one of them.

A badly written book certainly distracts the reader, but at the other end of the spectrum, a great book reflects the personality of the author in every paragraph or page. At that level, I find myself bonding more with the author than the characters in the book.

One of the posts here drew a valid parallel with acting, where invisibility is a true talent. For me, a closer parallel would be with music. Invisibility would include elevator music, BGM, and the output of most professional musicians. On the other hand, the personality of outstanding musicians imprints itself on every note they play or sing.

At the back of my mind is P. D. James. Within the first couple of paragraphs of her novels, I feel she's sitting next to me, and that feeling is reinforced every time she slips into one of her meticulous descriptions of people or places.

Terry Odell said...

Jud - I totally agree that a recognizable author's voice is part of an enjoyable read, I still prefer that the story is told by the characters. I write deep POV, and would like the readers to hear Graham and Colleen rather than the author.

I'm not a big fan of meticulous descriptions, but that's a personal thing, and that's why there are so many books. But if there are descriptions, I like them to remain in the character's POV.

I think the key word here is "intrusion" ... if the author disrupts the story, then I'm going to be pulled out.

But that's why there are so many books -- each reader is free to zero in on whatever he or she enjoys.