Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Shocked by the King

Since I've been running along at a good clip on penning my sequel and editing Kings & Queens, I've resurged my leisurely book reading. Last Monday I checked out five novels and I've already read three: Wicked Lovely, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and The Devil's Labyrinth. I read all of those books with the eye of a critter rather than a random reader. Why? Because I can learn from things that are done well and things that fall short. All of them were pretty well-written. I especially wanted to read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King because it featured a young girl who got lost in the woods and I wanted to read a book on a realistic circumstance to see how he ratcheted up suspense in that case. Plus, I knew it would have some tidbits about the Red Sox, and since I'm a Sox fan, double whoot!

It was a good book overall, but if I'm being honest, the first third of it ran off kind of rather clumsy and rough. It seemed as though a new student had written it rather than the King of Terror. I even said so to my husband while I was reading it. "I can't believe Stephen king wrote this. It doesn't sound like him." Each chapter was marked with a different inning, which was cool. The first chapter opens by telling readers the girl is already lost and then feeds us all sorts of backstory about the character's life and circumstances. This chapter seemed like it was more like brainstorming notes for character and premise building rather than an actual chapter. If he had just let the story unfold in real time instead of telling she was lost, then jumping back and giving a landslide of backstory right there, it would have been a much stronger beginning. It also needed to be gleaned and cleaned up, like Varitek's misspelled name.

I've read a few works written by him, and he seems to prefer omniscience. That's fine, but sometimes his jumps to a different perspective can be jarring rather than smooth and in this book he had some of those bumps. Another thing that gives it an amateurish feel is the superfluous there wases and she felts throughout the work. Though short, this book could have used a bit of a trim and a stronger editing eye.

But following the rough start, he did a really good job of describing the young girl's plight as she tries to trudge through and find escape from the dense, bug-infested woods and bogs filled with terrors and grossness at every corner. She finds some comfort in listening to Red Sox games picked up by her walkman courtesy of WEEI and also by fantasizing of her crush and hero Tom "Flash" Gordon. King describes actions and the setting very well so eventually you get over the distance created by the omniscient voice and feel as though you're right there with her. And of course, he added in an ominous threat, which adds to the suspense.

If a newbie tried to shop work with an intro like this, it would never fly. Because he's the King, he can do pretty much anything he wants. Generally, he can tell a good tale. If you're expecting his regular brand of terror, you'll be disappointed. I wanted to read something with this particular shade of conflict, so it worked for me. It was a good book, just not stellar.

If you're a newbie writer, kick off your novel with good guts and hook readers in chapter 1. Write away and rock on!

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.


  1. Go, Courtney.

    Wouldn't it be great to be in Stephen King's shoes? To be able to write imperfectly and still come out smelling at least similarly to a rose?

    I'm proud of your achievements and can't wait to here more. Hard work pays off for those who persevere.

    Thanks for the interesting blog entry.

  2. Aw, MAN! The King choked?? Where are they?? Where are the horsemen of the Apocalypse? The end is near!

  3. Sounds like King is doing whatever the hell he wants, as the muse serves it up to him. Lucky him for having that option -- to write however he wants.

    Of course, now I have to read this book! (But, I for one love backstory, and novels that mess with time or come at you from a different angle. I'll have to see for myself, and I'll report back, winks.)

    Great post! : )


  4. Thank you, Shaddy. Yes it would be great. Hopefully, I will be agented soon and on my way.

  5. Not quite a choke but not his best effort. I fear the end is near as well.

  6. Thank you, Em. Yeah. Do check it out. It's a short book anyway. I read it in about four hours.