When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana's quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too--but on his own terms.
I know this book isn't for everyone...no book is...but despite the haters out there, I learned plenty of writing lessons from this story. The list is long, so I'll choose my favorites:
- Bestsellers get away with it: The book opens with Ana looking in the mirror, describing herself. A no-no for sure. There were plenty of other situations where I had to knock my inner editor to the curb, or else I wouldn't have enjoyed the story. The book is both beloved and blasted on Goodreads, a sure sign that it got to people one way or another.
- Reveal main character through friends: One page 2, Ana admits that her friend Kate can talk her in to doing things she doesn't want to do. This is shown and told. This comes in to play heavily later in the story, and the author did a good job of setting up this character detail.
- If you want readers to like the creepy guy, give them a good reason: It was difficult for me to pinpoint the antagonist in this story, but I'd say it was Christian Grey himself. Sexy, confident, powerful, and a control freak. In real life, we might not even like a guy this arrogant. But he takes good care of Ana, and I respect him for that. Even Grey calls himself "fifty shades of f-ed." Finding out why he's this way kept me glued to the pages. Like Ana, I have a love/hate relationship with Christian Grey. (mostly love <3)
- When a character relinquishes control, it creates a strong reaction with readers: Ana definitely gave up some control of her own life in a way that makes most people uncomfortable. I don't know about you, but I can't imagine any of the women in my life handing over this much control to a guy. When Ana does this, it creates a strong, internal reaction in women.
- Create complicated characters: Without giving too much away, Grey is kind and alluring, but has an extreme dark side. Ana is strong and independent, but she's willing to submit. These complicated characters, and the choices they make, keep things interesting.
- Hint at a painful memory: Grey won't let Ana touch his chest, and rarely lets her see it. A story was there in those actions, and I was intrigued. His backstory is one of the reasons I couldn't put the book down.
- Show flirty dialogue through emails: One of my favorite parts of the story was the flirty email exchanges between Ana and Christian Grey. With one short sentence, so much personality was revealed. I felt like a stalker who reads personal emails.
- Indie authors can hit it big: We all know Amanda Hocking's story, but I was shocked to learn that 50 Shades was originally self-published. I have no idea how many times it was rejected by agents and publishers, but this is an excellent example of readers speaking with their dollars, and calling the shots. *Update: See Jami Gold's comment below. This book wasn't self-published, but it definitely didn't start out the "traditional" way.
What's your opinion of these writing lessons? And fess up, have you read this book? Know of anyone who has? If you read it, did you keep the cover hidden? (I almost did, but in a rare bout of courage, I didn't)