I have to admit, "Beautiful Creatures," by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, is not a book I'd normally read. However, I did enjoy the story and will definitely watch the movie when it comes out on DVD. Here's a brief blurb from the back cover:
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
Here are some of the writing lessons I learned from this book:
- Introduce the love interest soon: readers first experience Lena in one of Ethan's dreams. Ethan doesn't actually meet her until several pages later, but when it happens, it's natural. I've noticed that catchy love stories put the couple together soon, then throw obstacles in their way.
- Create unexpected scene details: Lena's home, old Ravenwood Manor, is known around town as the haunted house with a crazy shut-in who lives inside. When we first read about it, the exterior is as expected...peeling paint, boards creaking, vines covering the windows. But inside, the interior changes to match the mood of the scene...from light and modern to dark and spooky. The interior of the house almost became like another character to me, and I was interested to see how it looked in each scene.
- Create a unifying symbol or artifact: in this case, a crescent moon. It showed up on a necklace, an important book, and in other areas of the story. It all pointed back to the sixteenth moon, when Lena would be "claimed."
- Assign unique smells to locations and characters: the scents associated with Lena were lemons and rosemary. Those same smells came into play in the neighboring plantation, and tied in with the story. Amma, Ethan's beloved housekeeper/caretaker, loved crosswords. The scents associated with her were pencil lead and Red Hot candies. (For help on adding sensory details, see my post Wise Agent Advice: More Fleas, Please)
- Add a ticking clock: Lena writes numbers on her skin and her walls, and we soon learn this is a countdown to her sixteenth birthday. As the numbers dwindled, the tension increased.
- Ambiguous villains, heroes, and adults with secrets make things interesting: Uncle Macon seems like the creepy uncle no one wants to meet. Amma seems like an innocent caretaker who happens to practice voodoo. The librarian seems like a librarian. Each of these characters hold secrets of their own, and good vs. bad becomes a bit blurry. This kept the story interesting.
Have you used any of these writing tips in your own work? If you read this book, did you pick up other lessons you'd like to share?