3 Sep 07

Sep 03 2007

Accomplished less than I’d hoped, but plenty today.

Lack of progress is due primarily to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I “took a break” to read, then paused when my stomach told me I was very late for dinner, four hundred pages later.

In reading it, I’ve identified four primary dimensions of fiction writing:

  1. World building
  2. Character building
  3. Density of prose — ability to describe scenery or events evocatively
  4. Storytelling — how well the story pulls you along, compelling you to read more

Frank Herbert was a master at dimension 1, Terry Prachett’s amazing at dimension 2, Ray Bradbury’s a perfect example of dimension 3, while J.K. Rowling’s real strength is in dimension 4. Some of the descriptions are bland, her world can feel generic, and I’m occasionally confused by characters’ behaviors. But I just can’t put down her books.

Why? A few thoughts come to mind:

  • Her stories are sufficiently complex that every chapter brings at least one new twist to the danger that confronts the characters.
  • Her characters are sufficiently sympathetic. I care for them.
  • Her prose style is clean and clear, so that my mind doesn’t get bogged down parsing an intricate description.
  • The plots are action-oriented. Plenty of stuff happens.
  • Each book has a few central mysteries, which I want to see the protagonists solve.

There are undoubtedly others.

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