Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The Magic Ingredient of a Book
I continue to engage myself in the NAIWE challenge this week. Lord knows, I love challenges; I’m up to my ears in them.
A bit about NAIWE (National Association of Independent Writers and Editors): An association devoted to writers and editors, who are committed to earning a living by doing what they love. Online classes, vital information for writers/editors and great benefits are included in the membership.
The prompt today from NAIWE is “Writers are people who take isolated words and craft them into memorable phrases, stories, poems and plays. Who are the writers who make your heart sing? What is the magic ingredient?”
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and I do believe those writers have the more daunting job. To make history and current events hold a readers attention like a novel is an ambitious undertaking. But I digress…
I recently read Paul Auster’s Moon Palace. I’d heard him read and speak at the Opera House in Oaxaca in November ’08 and was fascinated by his prose, however it took more than a year for me to jump into one of his novels. When I finally did, I nearly ate it. Moon Palace makes you care SO much for the main character and his cast. MS Fogg has been securely implanted in my memory banks and, I suspect, will remain for some time to come. In the first paragraph of Moon Palace, the reader is exposed to every basic element of the entire book, yet not one surprise is spoiled. MS reveals how he was born the summer that men first walked on the moon, nearly perished, walked the breadth of a desert, lost all his money, fell in love with Kitty Wu (who saved him), discovered his father and took an unlikely job. And then strange things began to happen.
A fundamental element in capturing the reader’s imagination is to have him know and care for the character/s. The earlier the introduction, the better... and a writer should not be afraid of revealing too much. Given Auster’s example, it’s really okay to let the reader in on the plot. It will entice him to go further. Auster’s moon tie-ins are also inspiring: the man on the moon, the Moon Palace Bar and Grill with its neon sign, and the references to the actual heavenly body all figure heavily in the story.
Auster’s imagery is stunning and leaves the reader with descriptions and emotions that linger. Less than two weeks after I concluded Moon Palace, I read The Man in the Dark, a tale in two dimensions that leaves one breathless to move back and forth. August Brill’s dream-world gives the reader a glimpse of possible realities, while at the same time, reflects the chaos of his imagination. Political in nature, it is Brill who the reader focuses on, regardless of opinion or bias. It only really matters what happens to him, the man in the dark, and how he embraces his little family of daughter and granddaughter.
To make the reader care, wonder and rejoice or commiserate; this is the magic ingredient.
Thank you for reading.