It's been way too long since I've shared some of my writing lessons learned from great fiction! Today I'll gush about WOOL, by Hugh Howey. These notes are based on the omnibus edition of the story, but you can download part one for free here.
First, a brief description of book one:
Thousands of them have lived underground. They've lived there so long, there are only legends about people living anywhere else. Such a life requires rules. Strict rules. There are things that must not be discussed. Like going outside. Never mention you might like going outside. Or you'll get what you wish for.
I've learned some important life lessons from Hugh Howey, like the one I detailed in this post "Are you the Tiger Woods of publishing? Does it matter?" But I also learned amazing writing lessons from his books. (Alert! Read no further if you don't want to know any plot points!)
- Keep the secrets coming: the entire WOOL series thrives on the unknown. Why is humanity living underground? When was the silo built? Who built it and why? Who's good? Who's bad? Who's withholding the truth? All these questions kept me turning the digital pages.
- Provide good reasons for secrets: folks who live in the silo are punished for asking too many questions. Wanna explore the outdoors? Buh bye, you're dead. This provides a great reason why the characters don't know much about their living conditions. They accept their reality and don't dare question it.
- Give it a rest: WOOL builds tension at a steady pace until soon it's break-neck. But Howey does a great job of giving small rests. For instance, opposite sides start fighting. Bullets fly. While all this happens, we're watching a mechanic fiddle with a radio for communication. It's not much of a rest, but it's there.
- Build conflict among books & among the series: Howey not only creates tense action and meaningful character arcs within each book, he also does this along the entire series. Stakes rise and conflict builds chapter by chapter, book by book. (By the way, I totally admire writers who write series. What a great skill)
- Answer a question, introduce a question: just like secrets, Howey doles out questions throughout the entire series. As one question is answered, another is introduced. Readers don't know everything until the final chapter of the last book.
- Multiple points of view? No problem: most of the series is from one point of view, but many other points of view were expressed when needed. This didn't bother me a bit. It gave me insight to areas of the story the main character wasn't aware of.
Have you read any books from the WOOL series? What's your opinion of these writing lessons? Have you used any of these writing techniques? Please share!
My kids are on spring break next week, so I'll skip next Wednesday. The next post will be up April 30th--with a special guest!