I read a lot over the Christmas break, so I'll share another post about writing lessons learned from great fiction! I had the pleasure of reading COMPULSION by Martina Boone, who just happens to be a friend and wonderful blogger. If you haven't stopped by Adventures in YA Publishing, you should. Martina's blog is packed with advice, giveaways, and workshops.
Before we get to the lessons, here's a bit about Compulsion:
All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lived with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison in her aunt's South Carolina plantation instead--a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.
Stuck with ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn't what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.
This book was beautifully written, with a setting authentic enough to be its own character. Here are my writing lessons learned from Compulsion (Alert! If you haven't yet read Compulsion, and don't want to know any plot points, stop! But please come back after you've read the book):
- Show early signs of a special gift: if the story is paranormal, it's a great idea to show the reader the unexplained. If the story isn't paranormal, the author can still show qualities like the gift for gab, or a knack for not following directions. In Barrie's case, she's in a taxi early in the story when we learn she has a gift for finding lost things.
- Introduce the love interest early, even if it's only for a moment: a staple for fans of romances, but even for YA readers who swoon over the adorable guy. Barrie meets Eight Beaufort soon after she arrives at her aunt's plantation. He lives in the neighboring mansion, and also has gifts of his own.
- Leave a trail of unanswered questions: as questions are answered, new questions pop up, which kept me curious. For example, Barrie's mom was burned in a fire, and she allowed her family to believe she was dead. Why?
- Just when the reader has it all figured out, change things up: just when I thought I had all these characters figured out, Boone added a new surprise about the curse, the feud, or a twist on mythology. It kept me on my toes.
- Weave mythology in organically: I don't usually gravitate toward stories with mythology, but in this case, it was woven in the story in an interesting way after I'd already gotten to know the characters. The story first introduces a girl who's lost her mother, and then moves on to the boy, and the curse, and a family feud. Mythology wasn't dumped in like a textbook. It was woven in naturally through story events.
- Make each scene work overtime: with each scene, there were multiple plates spinning. It wasn't just the main character going somewhere or doing something. There were interactions with other characters--real or not--as well as inner dialog and forward movement. Compulsion provides excellent examples of scenes earning their keep and working overtime.
Have you visited Martina's blog? Have you read Compulsion yet? Any thoughts you'd like to add? Please share!