Unfortunately, this was a bit of a dry month for me reading-wise. Between the book release and all that went along with that, my fantastic trip to California, and the untimely return of my job responsibilities (school is back in session), I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked.
I was going to talk about the book I'm currently reading. It's a scary one called The Silence by Sarah Rayne.
I really the concept of the book, which is a mixture of old letters offering clues as to what happened in this haunted house intermingled with the modern narration of those experiencing the house's terror. This book started out really strong, but it really lagged in the middle, and at the end it took off again. So I'm a bit "on the fence" about it.
Therefore, I've decided to talk about a craft book by James Scott Bell called Write Your Novel from the Middle.
This is a short, to-the-point book, and as a writer you can pick it up, read a little, and immediately come away from the page with usable information.
At first I was a little skeptical about this technique. As a writer, I usually begin with the first chapter and just keep forcing my way through the weeds and the swamps of writer's block and difficult stop/starts until I reach the end. James Scott Bell completely shakes up that technique suggesting that you start directly in the center of the book with the scene that forces the main character to examine their heart, motives, or situation. He provides examples of classic books like Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird. If you turn to the exact center of the novels, you find the character in some kind of self examination or situation assessment. For example, in Gone with the Wind, the exact middle is Scarlett's great speech "I'll never go hungry again." She realizes that this war is nothing like she thought it would be, nothing has turned out the way she'd hoped, but she's the sort of person who will rise above, conquer, and survive.
I tried this little experiment myself. I turned to the middle of some classics I know and love--Rebecca, for instance. In the middle of this classic novel, the narrator realizes that Mrs. Danvers has completely sabotaged her costume for the ball, suggesting she wear a custom-made dress from the paintings in the hall. When Maxim de Winter's young wife does this, her husband and the other guests are shocked. She looks exactly like Rebecca. Instead of wowing the guests, the opposite effect occurs, and Mrs. Danvers is pleased as punch. The narrator realizes Danvers hates her and wants her to disappear as she can never replace Rebecca. (Here's the scene in the movie in case you want to view it).
I must confess that I'm not completely finished with the book yet, but I'm trying out the technique, and I have to admit that it's working really well for my current work-in-progress.
So it's not a fiction recommendation this month, but the writers in our midst may find this book useful and surprisingly original as a book of craft.