Thursday, January 11, 2007

Learning from the Masters: Neil Gaiman, Part III

Finally! Finally, finally, finally!

I finally pushed myself all the way to the end of this novel. Don't get me wrong; it's not that it isn't a page-turner, because it is. The problem is, sometimes it's just so good, that I want to go back and re-read!

So how did I read Neil Giaman's Anansi Boys?

Well, I read Chapter One three times. And then I read Chapters One - Two. Then Chapters One - Three. And then Chapters Two - Four. And then Three to halfway through the book. Then it was Chapter Four ... and I kept on trucking all the way to the end.

Crazy, huh?

I set out to study the craft of this book, to understand how it was put together and how it worked. (Hence, this isn't really a review review, but a trying-to-learn review.) ((And double parantheses ... I accidentally pressed Ctrl + S while typing this, and it published!! I press Ctrl + S about every other sentence when I'm writing. I guess the habit is sticking!)) So sorry, if you're on feed!

Anyway, I had a hard time understanding this structure. The beginning and the end are intricate mazes of hook upon hook ... extraordinarily well-crafted fiction. I love the pacing of the beginning and the end so much that I'm aiming for that same feeling of counterpoint in my novel.

The middle is what confuses me. The middle is like any other novel, with long arcs and not as tightly or intricately woven. While the beginning and end are short little hooks and threads, the middle contains long lines that aren't so ... compressed.

Is this just the convulated way in which I read it? Did anyone else feel this way?

From a structural standpoint, it makes sense. I see most things in terms of music, and this reminds me of a Sonata, in a way. In the beginning, you get all the motifs. In the middle, you develop the motifs into longer musical ideas. In the end, you repeat the smaller motifs of the beginning.

And how does the structure of the novel relate to the following quote from Anansi Boys:

Stories are webs, interconnected strand to strand, and you follow each story to the center, because the center is the end. Each person is a strand of story.

I have more questions than answers today. The pacing and hooking and intricacy of the beginning remind me of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.Please don't misunderstand; Neil Gaiman is worlds above Dan Brown in craft.

But the one similarity (and I suspect this is why The Da Vinci Code sold so well) is the intricate pacing. The way the book jumps from interesting to intriguing, with hooks all over the place that arouse the curiousity, as well as plain old well-crafted story.

I hesitate to say more because--please don't laugh at me--I feel like I need to read this one more time, all the way through (preferably in one sitting) to really get a grasp of the structure. So I'm asking more than telling ... what do you think of the structure?

And if you haven't read it, what is the most intriguing, intricately plotted (along with well-written with developed characters) book that you've read? I'd really love to study it!

That's how I want my book to feel, but I question whether this can be pulled off in first person (one POV) or not. What do you think?

3 bonus scribbles:

Zoe Winters 1/12/2007 05:13:00 PM  

sometimes it takes me a long time to read a novel because i love it so much and want to make it last as long as possible.

spyscribbler 1/12/2007 07:28:00 PM  

Yes, Zoe! Sometimes I get to the end, and I'm so disappointed that it's over that it ruins the ending.

Did I ever mention that I cried--no, bawled--for two hours when I finished all the books in the Chronicles of Naria? I was absolutely heartbroken that it was over.

Zoe Winters 1/12/2007 11:47:00 PM  

awwww. :( I have a few books I've read 2 or 3 times. That's a rarity for me, but some books I just love that much. I want to be published, but climbing some chart isn't as important to me as knowing that SOMEWHERE there is one person who loves my book that much and reads it over and over.