Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Writing lessons learned from THE PULL OF GRAVITY

I just finished THE PULL OF GRAVITY by Gae Polisner, and absolutely loved it. Here's a quick blurb:

When their friend Scooter dies of a rare disease, teenagers Nick Gardner and Jaycee Amato set out on a secret journey to find the father who abandoned "The Scoot" when he was an infant, and give him a signed first edition of "Of Mice and Men."

As with all books I read, I learned a great deal about writing from this one. Here goes:

Add interest by threading in old favorites.
Bits of Steinbeck's OF MICE AND MEN were woven through the narrative. If teens haven't read the classic yet, hopefully they'll grab a copy after reading GRAVITY. And the Scoot was a huge Star Wars fan and quoted Yoda, which was a fun story element.

Send your characters on a worthy quest.
Nick and Jaycee weren't on their journey for selfish reasons. They were fulfilling a dying wish of their best friend. Who can resist that?

Create likable characters.
I know, I know, we hear this all the time. But still. When I read great characters it reminds me to give my own characters memorable quirks, identifiable faults, and admirable qualities.

Don't forget to add interesting, supporting characters.
Nick's dad was obese and set out on his own journey of self discovery, walking hundreds of miles--Forrest Gump style. The Scoot suffered from a terminal disease, and his dying wishes lingered on every page. The supporting cast stayed with me after I finished the book.

Between-chapter goodies can add depth.
I love it when extras are slipped between chapters, like the poetry added to THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. In GRAVITY it was emails from Nick's dad, chronicling his trek to New York. It added dimension to the story.

Clean YA stories are great.
*puts on mommy hat*
This is a clean, well-told story that I'd be comfortable with my 14-year-old son reading.

What's your opinion of these lessons learned? And have you experienced something similar in the books you've read?

45 comments:

  1. Wasn't this gorgeous? I felt really heartened at the end: life changes and things are unexpected, but there is still security and hope.

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  2. A book with Star Wars quotes - I'm in. This sounds like a lovely story. *stands on tiptoes to add THE PULL OF GRAVITY to TBR pile*

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  3. oh, Julie, I love this!! And the muse that helped me sprinkle these qualities into this book!

    Thank you.

    Gae

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  4. Caroline, it really was a beautiful story.

    Leslie, I thought of you when I read the Star Wars quotes!

    Gae, thank YOU for writing such a great book!

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  5. I haven't read The Pull of Gravity but I really like the author's idea of weaving Of Mice and Men into the story. I'm using a sort of classic book as a thread in my WIP too. These are all great ideas for adding layers and depth to a story. Thanks, Julie.

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  6. Wow, I'm definitely going to have to read this! I love Steinbeck novels, so the bits of OF MICE AND MEN are a particularly interesting aspect of the story. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  7. this sounds fantastic, loved your synopsis of it. I will definitely add this to my very very short YA and MG list of to -read books.

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  8. Yay Gae! Yay Julie! Yay Pull of Gravity!
    erica

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  9. It sounds like a wonderful book, Julie. And yes, clean YA books are good too! LOL. So long as we don't ban anything I'm cool. :D

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  10. This sounds wonderful,Julie and I learn so much for your synopsis and analysis of what you learn about writing. Thanks for sharing.
    karen

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  11. I love your breakdown of the book.

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  12. This sounds like an awesome book with plenty to learn from! :D

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  13. Some genres it's difficult to add familiar things, but I can see how story set in the here and now would benefit from a few familiar threads.

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  14. Julie, you are such a generous font of insightful information for readers AND writers! Would you consider guest blogging a "Books That Teach Us How to Write" for us sometime?

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  15. This sounds great. I wonder if I'd be able to read it as I haven't read teen fiction since I was a teenager...

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  16. I haven't read this one yet but I love when a story has heart and dimension.

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  17. When I read The Pull of Gravity back in December, I knew it was a special book. It warms my heart to see the number of people discovery Gae's book and commenting so positively about it. It was our summer reading selection for students entering English 11 this fall.

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  18. Oh yes! It's soooo important to have likable characters! I'm reading a YA book now, and I'm loving the premise, but I'm NOT liking the characters at all. It seems that the author wanted to make them flawed but she went overboard.
    Anyway, I'll check out this book! Thx for sharing your thoughts! :D

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  19. Sounds like a book I'd like to read.

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  20. This sounds like a must-get for my classroom! Thanks for the tip :)

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  21. Oh I'd love to add poetry what a great idea. Now where can I put it? The last story the protag was going for selfish reasons but got sidetracked with unselfish task. Current WIP is un-selfish to begin with and just gets more giving. I never would have analysed it like that had I not read your post :)

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  22. I'm so amazed and overwhelmed by all this great feedback! Erica sure knows how to (randomly) pick her winners! :)

    If you're a teacher interested in the book, I'd be happy to pay a Skype visit to the classroom! I present to local classrooms who read Of Mice and Men and talk about the connections. You can also find a link to an essay I wrote bridging the two on the teacher's resources page on my website (thepullofgravity.com - link to YA then link to teachers resources). I have a teacher's guide coming at the end of July. Please pass it on! Thanks again, Julie! *blows tons of kisses!*

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  23. I do love your dissections of novels you've read recently. Instead of just giving a synopsis and review, you spend time analyzing what makes the book great. My next review, I think, will follow your lead. Sounds like a great book!

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  24. Yes, threading in favorites is excellent. Any ways to connect better with your readers are a plus. I love all these aspects you found in this book, and I like the idea of Scoot's father's emails being scattered between chapters. Adds more depth to the story, I'm sure.

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  25. Sounds really good, Julie. And since I have a 13 year old, I like the clean part as well! :-)

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  26. This sounds like a really good book. :)

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  27. These are great lessons! I've heard some buzz about this book. Maybe I'll have to pick it up.

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  28. Those of you who haven't yet read this book, you won't be disappointed.

    Teachers--Gae left a comment further up letting you know how she can connect with your classroom.

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  29. Hi, Julie. I just stopped by to say hello. I have been making the rounds with many of my blogging friends for the past two days. I'm hoping to turn a new leaf with regards to posting less and visiting other blogs more. So far, so good.
    I hope you and yours are well.

    -Jimmy

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  30. Sounds like a really cool read! I do believe it's already on my TBR list!

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  31. I saw this one at my library. Now I'll pick it up next time I go. Thanks for the recommend!

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  32. Books that encourage kids to read the classics are always fantastic. Love that! The concept of this one sounds excellent too.

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  33. Sounds like a unique premise. I love being able to glean writing lessons from the good books of others. Once I get past all the writer envy of not having written something this good myself, I find these books hugely inspiring.

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  34. Wonderful points! I haven't read this novel yet, but now I'm itching to. Thank you for this. : )

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  35. Wow! Dying to read this now. Sounds wonderful. Yes, I learn something from every book I read too. How could we not?

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  36. Great lessons, I try and learn from every book I read, unfortunately I am not doing as good as I thought… but life goes on.
    Thx

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  37. Not really my kind of book, but your advice is spot on. Another addition to my Great Writing Advice folder. Thanks, Julie!

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  38. Thanks for the great review! I don't usually read contemporaries or "issue" books, but RAH for clean YA. That's my goal--to have a book ANYone can read. No sense limiting one's readership.

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  39. You have a fabulous blog! I want to award you with one of my homemade awards: Powerful Woman Writer Award for all the hard work you do!

    Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.
    ~Deirdra

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  40. Something Wicked by Alan M. Gratz. He weaves Shakespeare into his works. Not so clean for a fourteen year-old, though.

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  41. The book sounds great. And a clean YA sounds all the better. Have a lovely weekend.

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  42. Hey, I read this too, and really enjoyed it for all the reasons you said. Great review!

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  43. I love books with great characters. I'll add this to my TBR list. Thanks so much for the review, Julie!

    Amy

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