Saturday, July 5, 2008

Upping the stakes

Recently my CP, Leah, and I got into a discussion about great contemporaries, specifically, what makes a great one.

I just finished listening - again - to It Had to Be You, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, the first book in her 'Stars Football Team series'.

She is an incredible architect of plot and emotion but her books don't come out often enough. When I need an SEP fix, I re-read one or listen to an old one. I joined Audible and all of her books are now on unabridged audio, absolutely the best way to enjoy them.

So for the last two days I've been appreciating her incredible talent. What makes her books so special? What makes me hang, enthralled, from scene to scene to the very end?

If you've read anything about writing you've heard the advice from authors to up the stakes. SEP is a master, um, Mistress of upping the stakes. There isn't just one reason why Pheobe and Dan can't be involved there are three. That's the case with every situation and relationship. And the stakes just keep getting upped straight to the end.

Shirley Jump did a workshop for Killer Instincts called the Rule of Six, where the author carries the options for the scene or the plot point or character arc down six levels. Some carry it twenty.

Imagine the work that goes into designing your scenes with so many facets. Man, would I like to be sitting on her shoulder like a little leprechaun watching her plot her books.

Whatever she does, it's wrenchingly, beautifully done. And another one is finally on the way in February of 2009 - What I Did For Love. Hallelujah!

1 comment:

Leah Braemel said...

Thing that gets me is stories that I think suck sell big time - so I'm not sure you should be listening to me too hard, LOL.

And yes, SEP rocks. (Better you learn from her than me.)