Posts tagged ‘lesedgerton’

May 6th, 2011

Learn from the Classics

by Madeleine Rex

We’ve read some very well-known books in my English class this year (many of which I’d already read). We began the year with Of Mice and Men, a book I’m a huge fan of. However, it wasn’t until I dug into it for a second time with the aid of my fabulous (or “rad” as one of my other teachers described her) English teacher that I realized just how spectacularly detailed Of Mice and Men is. There’s something that writers like Steinbeck have managed to do with word choice that gives their words layer upon layer of meaning.

There’s a passage in which Steinbeck describes Lennie’s and George’s physical features, such as the way they walk and the angles of their face. It’s mystifying. I’d never noticed before reading it in class that Steinbeck manages to write the sentences in a way that reflects the image he’s trying to create. The words he uses to describe George’s skinniness are, well, skinny words, and vice versa for Lennie.

Ray Bradbury accomplishes something similar in many parts of Fahrenheit 451. When we’d discuss the intricacies of Bradbury’s or Steinbeck’s word choice, I was almost exhausted by the very thought of putting that much consideration into the words I choose. Certainly, diction’s important to me and something I love to deal with, but I can hardly imagine creating something so complex. It’s far more fun as a reader to untangle the meanings of specific paragraphs or individual sentences of other people’s books.

In Les Edgerton’s Hooked: Write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go, he says:

…every word needs to count and to represent much more than the few syllables it takes to utter.

Some writers have truly taken that advice to heart and created magic. I aspire to be half as brilliant before I die. Leaning to play with words and create illustrious images is a process I’ve yet to master and likely never will. But isn’t it fabulous to read a paragraph in a book and simply gape at it? Stare at it for ten seconds, and then reread? I love it when I come across something so magnificent that I wish I could tattoo it on my mind and carry it around with me as a constant reminder of what words can accomplish.

Someday, I want to make someone feel that way. Don’t you? Let’s look to the masters. Reread those books you were forced through in high school because there’s a pretty decent chance you’ll learn more the second time around. Don’t analyze. Analysis is too cold. Savor. Enjoy.

P.S. I just got my 100th follower! Thanks, Vy! There’s a giveaway coming up soon! Goodness knows you guys deserve it for putting up with my irregular posts!

March 15th, 2011

Hooked by Les Edgerton; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One And Never Lets Them Go

Author: Les Edgerton

Published: April 12, 2007 by Writer’s Digest Books

Number of Pages: 256

Rating: 4/5

Quote:

Breaking rules doesn’t make one original – pick out any juvenile delinquent loitering on the street corner and you’ll see what I mean. Working within the rules and delivering original and creative stories is what makes one original.

And successful.

Synopsis:

Agents and editors agree: Improper story beginnings are the single biggest barrier to publication. Why? If a novel or short story has a bad beginning, then no one will keep reading. It’s just that simple. Hooked provides readers with a detailed understanding of what a beginning must include (setup, backstory, the inciting incident, etc.); instruction on how to successfully develop the story problem; tips on how to correct common beginning mistakes; exclusive insider advice from agents, acquiring book editors, and literary journal editors; and much more. [From Goodreads]

Review:

I picked up Hooked when I was on a writing-related-books rampage at Borders a few months ago. Among the others I chose to buy that day, Hooked , with its less, well, boring cover and Edgerton’s humorous, lighthearted voice, stood apart.

Writing good (not decent or standard or acceptable) beginnings was something I’d been thinking about. I know that I judge every book’s first sentence (and often the first paragraph) critically. Hand me something like Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry, and I won’t be able to resist buying and finishing the book, even if the first page is the best part in the entire thing.

I wanted a beginning like that. The sort of hook that readers wouldn’t snap at, nibble, or bite, but one they’d swallow. And that’s precisely what Hooked‘s all about.

Edgerton immediately dives into listing the basic components of a good beginning (and how they’ve evolved, particularly over the last 150 years), such as the inciting incident, story-worthy-problem, surface problem, etcetera. He makes a point of addressing the alpha and omega of misused story components, backstory and setup.

He does a fantastic job of highlighting the pros and cons of every aspect of a beginning. Arguably, there are advantages to every facet of a story, but whether their disadvantages outweigh them is the determiner. At no point does he call an approach stupid or an idea ridiculous, but instead warns against the dangers of particular ways of approaching things.

It’s not a secret that I struggle getting through nonfiction, though I do gravitate toward those with the topic of writing. While Hooked is, sadly, definitely nonfiction, Edgerton’s voice and style were exactly what the book needed to make it not only informative but genuinely interesting. He continually approached things with a lighthearted tone. I felt that he was offering advice or lending a hand as opposed to instructing or preaching. The fact that he could transform a potentially dry piece of material into something interesting proved that he can, indeed, write, which made learning from him all the more enjoyable. I had faith that I was in the hands of someone who knows what he’s talking about.

I’ve learned loads from this book and found answers to particular questions of mine in regard to The Lemonites. Edgerton repeatedly stressed the necessity of the writer having a concise idea of the protagonist’s story-worthy problem – the problem that encapsulates the whole of the story or the underlying issue that is really within the character and is not resolved until the very, very end. As my friend Miranda Kenneally can testify, this is a concept I’ve been struggling with every since I started thinking seriously about The Lemonites and what it needs to become great. The examples and guidance Edgerton supplies have helped me wrap my mind around the idea and continue to craft Pepto’s character into the sort that has a story-worthy problem that can actually carry the story to the end.

The aforementioned examples were my very, very favorite aspect of Hooked. There were multiple examples from actual written work for just about everything! I loved learning about a concept and then immediately seeing it at work. It allowed me to keep the idea in the back of my mind while reading the excerpt so that I could identify where it came into play and its effect on me. I know this is the second time I’ve brought her up, but Miranda does the same thing when I come to her with a problem or we’re in the middle of a conversation on writing. Using examples from written work and assessing a technique’s effectiveness was the best way for me to learn. It was this part of the book that made it a truly valuable experience for me.

Essentially, Hooked is a remarkably enjoyable book with a great author’s voice that manages to be hugely informative and inspiring.