Saturday, September 14, 2013

Ducks all in a Row

I just finished a delightful book written by a member of a writing forum I belong to. I think it might have been her first, but I didn’t check. In any case, her ducks weren’t quite all in line.

We all know how much fun it is to catch those pesky little errors in our writing, heck, even good editors miss things once in a while, but those aren’t the ducks I’m talking about here.

There were three main threads running through this book:
  1. There was the girl meets guy thread, where she sees him and falls madly in love.
  2. There was the handsome cop who was investigating a murder and somehow figured the #1 girl was somehow connected and that her father’s murder was too.
  3. And then there were the teasing thoughts of the murderer inserted here and there along the way.
  4. There was even the beginnings of another thread concerning a batty old lady.

I talk in threads because I liken my telling a story to weaving a tapestry. Words paint pictures, and a tapestry is a plush picture with many layers of story, but lets get back to our ducks.
  • Primary thread – Romance – the story is always the same. Girl meets guy, guy meets girl, they fall helplessly in love. All that remains is how the story is told. In this book, we have a girl who was abused most of her childhood, and even sold as a sex slave where she was abused even worse, a fate she escaped from after a week. She returns to her first abuser, her father, and he very nearly beats her to death, only now does her grandmother whisk her away from this fate and she spends the next eight or ten years gallivanting across the country, and even going to America at some point. But that’s all back story revealed along the way without weighing us down with it all. The details need to be what they are to support the story being told.

The story starts with her return home after her father is murdered to settle family affairs and to locate and sell off her father’s prized collection of artifacts; she’ll need to money to survive. She doesn’t want to sponge off grandma for the rest of her life.

To do that, she needs a good fence. Insert handsome dude with tons of money, shady and not connections, and the reputation of a pirate, though nothing can be proved. His dealings with her were of a very different nature, preferring to tempt and tease her into falling in love with him. You see, he’d fallen for her long ago, but we don’t know that until later.

It’s a quaint thread, a little dramatic in my opinion, but I generally don’t care for romance. However, there’s only so many pages in a book and we did have to get abused girl all the way from ‘afraid of being touched or cornered’ to ‘craving at least his touch and much more’. I think it was pretty well done, however I’d have gone with a few more pages and a slower progression with this romance. Considering the parameters, I think it went to fast.
  • Secondary thread – murder investigation – handsome cop with a very charming smile has a desk mounded with files and papers. I’m not sure what they’re all for, but we can’t all be neat. He’s being pressured by his boss to solve a murder because the girl was the daughter of a titled member of society. The trouble is, there were no clues. The girl had gone missing for a few days, and then she ended up quite dead, where her family could find her, with a long-shafted brass key imbedded in her heart. Trying to determine her habits proved to be impossible since preserving her reputation and modesty were paramount.

Now here is where some of those duck go missing. For some reason, handsome cop feels that the murder of the main girl’s father was somehow related. I like logic, but I can’t even see gut instinct linking these two events together. The fact that two murders within high society occur within (lets say) a month of each other (no timeline is given on this) simply isn’t enough for me. Considering the pile of work on his desk, these two murders aren’t the only things our cop trying to solve.

He also jumps to the conclusion that somehow our main character is also involved, but I see no connection there either. Father dies before she returns to the city. Girl dies after. The only connection between the girls is that they are possibly peers in society and of an age. hmmm

Then a short time later, another girl is killed in the same manner, with a brass key shredding her heart. By the time a third girl turns up dead, eye color is mentioned. Still no real connection is made. It would have been nice if the connection, by the second murder at least, was physical resemblance, but that is never done anywhere, so you can see why I’m having trouble following this cop’s investigation. Then of course our main character goes missing like all the others, and our main guy gets involved.

Clear clues led them to her old torturer and his son who rented her father’s house. Once there, logic dictated they search for a cellar. Then came the fight scene and the rescue. Our hero saves the day and whisks the love of his life off to the hospital, leaving the cops to clean up the scene and solve the crimes – job done – murders solved – society’s daughters are safe again. Short of the final love scene, the book is finished.
  • The third thread I mention is more the kind of thread inserted for texture more than anything else. Occasionally, at the beginnings of some of the chapters, are the thoughts of the murderer as he is planning his action and rationalizing what he is going to do. He is of course completely wackadoodle.

Here again we learn that our main girl was ‘the right one’ all along, but if so, why did he try out three others first? They weren’t practice. You don’t ‘practice’ finding ‘the right one’, not when you know which one is ‘the right one’. So, as his work progresses and fails, he goes from searching to practicing. Even a wacko doesn’t do that, do they? I don’t know; it felt just off to me. And considering who this dude ended up being, a physical resemblance between the girls would have been more in keeping with everything.
  • I mentioned the beginnings of a fourth thread concerning a nutty old lady. It seemed as if her involvement was merely to serve an end, and yet she was so delightfully developed. Batty old ladies are fun to work with though, so I see this as opportunity missed.

She was having our main girl solve the problems of the girls and ladies of society because she was free to do the things society dictated those ladies dared not do. After solving one problem our girl learned that this batty old lady had a book she needed for research, so she felt confident enough to go ask for it.

Here too, I would have added a few more pages to make this thread just a little stronger. It could have enlightened us into some of the troubles society’s girls and women can get themselves into that would completely ruin them and their family’s reputations among that same society if they ever found out. It could have added plenty of humor to the whole book while at the same time not really interfering with the main threads. I like threads. Can you tell? Threads can add depth and texture to a story if given the chance.

Though I gave this book 4 stars, you can see how the fine details can make all the difference. Pay attention to the details. Your tapestry needs to be more than piece of cloth with a picture painted on it. It’s much more valuable if you can run your fingers across it and feel the texture, the hills and valleys, the rough spots and those that tickle, even the blood, sweat, and tears.

Are your ducks all in a row?
Happy writing


William Kendall said...

It certainly sounds like a lot of detail for the writer to keep track of!

Anna L. Walls said...

It's not so hard really, you just gotta keep juggling all your threads. And if you drop one, it's not too hard to weave it back in. It's just a matter of remembering the details.