Writing Wrongs

March 06, 2005

Yes! I finished The Time Traveler's Wife today. What a wild ride. I haven’t read something quite like that in well, maybe ever. It’s a great book to read from a writer’s perspective. I’m such a slow reader these days. I’ll read, stop, and reread a paragraph, and ponder the author’s intent. Some writers say they can’t read for pleasure because they’re always “editing.”

I like to think of it as assessing. I mean, it’s not really my place to question the writer’s choice of words or syntax. If it bothers me that much, I’ll stop reading that particular book. But when a book is good, pondering can be time consuming.

Something that struck me about The Time Traveler’s Wife was some of the choices the author made. I wondered more than once why she chose to reveal certain pieces of information when she did, only to realize later on that it was the most interesting way to handle it.

The excerpt below comes late in the book (but doesn’t give anything away if you haven’t read it) and illustrates what I mean.

“Gosh,” says Catherine. “It’s like working with Clark Kent.”

“I feel like Jimmy Olsen,” says Matt. “Ugh.”

“That makes you Lois Lane,” Roberto teases Catherine.

“No, no. Clare is Lois Lane,” she replies.

Matt says, “But Lois Lane was oblivious to the Clark Kent/Superman connection, whereas Clare . . .”

“Without Clare I would have given up a long time ago,” I say. “I never understood why Clark Kent was so hell bent on keeping Lois Lane in the dark.”

“It makes a better story,” says Matt.

“Does it? I don’t know,” I reply.

Writers hear a lot about “raising the stakes” and figuring out what the worst thing that can happen to a character is and making it happen. Sometimes worst thing = predictable. Orson Scott Card in Characters and Viewpoint talks about figuring out what the most interesting thing is and making that happen.

This is what happens in The Time Traveler’s Wife. This isn’t to say that there wasn’t escalating plot, rising stakes, and ticking clock, because there were. But it was different. I was surprised, and it’s been a while since I’ve been surprised.

And wouldn’t you know. The day I buy some books to read, I get an email notice from the library for a book I don’t remember putting on hold it was so long ago. Since there’s a waiting list, I’m reading that one first.

So many books, so little time.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 7:48 a.m.