by Jen Slattery
A few years ago someone mailed me a historical fiction about.... Well, I'm not sure what it was about because I never made it that far. I tried. Oh, my, did I try, but after page upon page of life-activities, my perseverance waned and I put the book aside. I learned the heroine wore her hair in ribbons, what she ate for breakfast, and numerous other details of her daily life. To the author, perhaps these events were significant. Maybe she had fond memories of getting her hair done and thought perhaps if she outlined these details, one movement at a time, she could invoke those same emotions in her reader. But sadly, her over-abundance of minute details, void of conflict, dulled my brain.
As I read over today's excerpts again--talking of spiritual warfare, castles, and jail sentences--I realized one of the things I long for in a story is the ability to visit a place other than my own. That doesn't mean I always gravitate toward time-traveling speculative fiction, but I don't want to relive the monotony of life either.
I love books that raise the stakes, introduce me to unique settings and unique characters, and allow my mind to drift from the day-to-day. One of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens. Upon first glance, I might conclude this is due to his "other-than" settings, but I believe it's more than that. His use of language creates images so vivid and emotive, he manages to turn a walk through the city into a unique experience. And yet, somehow he does this without losing the human element--the universal emotions we all share. So basically, he creates a world that is unique enough to grab my attention and propel me into the story, but he does it in such a way that I deeply connect with the characters.
This week's excerpts captured my attention with their unique settings and story-lines. The shuffle of monotony in a high school is intensified by the presence of evil. In excerpt B, I'm introduced to the magnificent Hearst Castle, and the world of antiquity. In both, I realize much more is at stake than castle restoration and chemistry class.
What about you? What are some things you look for in a story? Think back to a story you've particularly enjoyed. What was it about that novel that grabbed you? Is it a slightly quirky character or a castle shrouded by clouds and hidden behind a patch of trees?
(If you haven't already done so, read over both excerpts. And remember, there are numerous ways to be entered into our drawing for the book give-aways: leave a comment on any of the articles posted over the next week, fb share us, tweet us, or subscribe. Remember to shoot us an email letting us know you've shared, tweeted, or subscribed.)
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Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, freelance writer and biblical studies major at Calvary Bible college. In 2009 she won first place in the HACWN writing contest in the book category, placed second in the 2010 Dixie Kane, fourth in the 2010 Golden Pen and third in the 2010 CWG Operation First Novel Contest. She has a short piece appearing in Bethany House's Love is a Flame (under a pen name), forwarded by Gary Chapman, another piece in Cathy Messecar's A Still and Quiet Soul, and writes for Reflections in Hindsight, Christ to the World, Samie Sisters, The Christian Pulse, and reviews for Novel Reviews. She's also written for Granola Bar Devotions, Afictionado, The Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Romantic Times Review, Bloom and the Breakthrough Intercessor.
Contact Jennifer: slattery07(at)yahoo(dot)com