Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Perfect Novel.


A turkey that landed in my driveway last year. DH cracked up because he never sees a turkey when he goes hunting, and here one lands in our driveway and stays awhile. It was fun to snap eighty pictures of him, LOL ...

Happy Thanksgiving, all! We’re just working around the house and going to Cracker Barrel. We cook a mean turkey dinner, but it’ll have to wait until Christmas Day. Yummy ... I can’t wait! I hope you’re all having a blast, and this is the time of year to get all gushy and say how grateful I am you blog and hang out around the blogosphere! Thank You!

As I was reading around and getting inspired for my novel, I realized that as I search through the stacks, I’m looking for the perfect novel. Something I can aspire to. Something that is everything I’ve ever dreamed of writing.

But I’m not sure books are that way. Every book we read becomes part of our foundation rather than our goal, part of the writer we end up being rather than the writer we strive to be.

Art is always striving to surpass perfection, to create perfection but with our added heart and style and spark, but it’s art’s curse that it always falls short of perfection. Still, we get up the next day and strive some more.

So, I figured it would be fun to have some idea of what the perfect novel for me would be, something I’m reaching towards, even if I fall short. Instead of playing fantasy football, let’s play fantasy author!

Here’s my dream team. What would be yours?

  • Genre: Spy Thriller
  • Tone: A mixture of Alias, Barry Eisler, Joseph Finder, Lee Child, MJ Rose, John Burdett, John le Carre
  • Twists: J.J. Abrams
  • Gut-grabbers: 24
  • Style: M.J. Rose (She makes simple prose sound erotic. I don’ t know how or why, but she can make words turn me on, swear to God.) Nevada Barr, Bernita Harris. (Okay, I should say my style is vastly different, but ... it would be my perfect novel.)
  • Heart: Star Trek: I miss the hope for humanity that pervaded the series, the acceptance of others and the striving for utopia. If I had even a drop of that in my story, I’d be thrilled!

    And, of course, Erica Orloff, how heart seeps onto every page and through every character.
  • Characters: For the ability to make a character vivid in one sentence, Stephen King. For the ability to flesh out quirky so thoroughly that a quirky character feels completely plausible and almost normal, John Irving. For the ability to go deep, deep, DEEP into a character, Erica Orloff.
  • Details: Marcus Sakey
  • Pure, raw talent: Marcus Sakey
  • Pure Something Spark: Nora Roberts
  • Hooks: Neil Gaiman: no one hooks like Neil Gaiman. He hooks short and long and all over the place. It’s breathtaking to watch.
  • Suspending Disbelief: John Irving writes fiction with a capital F. He writes fiction’s fiction, a novel’s novel. In this latest trend of realism in novels, sometimes I feel like I’m reading a true story rather than fiction. I love the feeling of John Irving’s fiction. It feels like fiction, but there’s disbelief to suspend, which he does through character, usually.
  • Pacing: Jason Pinter
  • Plot: It’s been years since I’ve read a Jasmine Cresswell novel (shame on me), but when I did read them, I thought they were the most finely-crafted plots I’d ever read. Seamless, but hooked everywhere. Really cool and amazing. I never understood why she’s not as big as some of the other suspense writers out there; when it comes to romantic suspense, she was definitely one of my favorites!
  • Female kick-ass characters: I don’t know how he does it, but Mark Terry writes them better than anyone. He just lets them be them, doesn’t make excuses or fuss with them or anything. I really can’t put my finger on it. Of course I have no idea, but it feels like he just respects women and of course they’d be kick-ass in their own right. Whereas some female authors tend to unconsciously, I think, try to prove they’re just as good as a man (or better), and some male authors tend to try too hard to make them female. (I’m sorry to say, I’m not sure a male author should ever mention a women’s period.) I just like the way Mark Terry writes women. I’m sure he thinks me bizarre for saying that so much, LOL.

    Oh! How could I forget J.D. Robb? Eve Dallas is awesome! And so is Laurell K. Hamilton’s Meridith Gentry and Anita Blake!
  • World-Building: Hard one. Probably the best world-building I’ve read I can’t remember at the moment. Janet Evanovich, for making Trenton and the Burg and New Jersey as fleshed-out as any character. Way cool! Same with John Burdett and Bangkok. Barry Eisler does an awesome job of it, too, but he doesn’t go so far as to make it a character, in my mind. Not usually. Joseph Finder makes corporate America really vivid, too. Oh! How could I forget J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis?!

    WAIT! Not so hard! Laurell K. Hamilton! Although the world rules get a little bent and nearly changed as she goes along, she builds a vivid, vivid world, a fascinating world.
  • The Everyman: For their ability to put ordinary people that we can totally relate to in extraordinary circumstances, I nominate Janet Evanovich, Harlan Coben, Joseph Finder.
  • Pure Storycrafting: John Irving, Neil Gaiman, Robert Heinlein.

What am I leaving out? Tons of stuff, tons of authors. I just can’t think of them off the top of my head. And that’s how I think the books we read influence us. They exist somewhere in our deep in our psyche, inspiring our subconscious as we consciously craft something of our own.

So what would your perfect novel be like? What ideal do you strive for when you write? Of course, in the end, as we strive to write the perfect novel we must give ourselves permission to write crap. Writing, for me, is the hardest mental game I’ve ever played.

8 bonus scribbles:

Aimless Writer 11/22/2007 12:34:00 PM  

You're making me think too much on Thanksgiving...I'm more the veg on the couch till dinner type.
Have a Happy Spy! Love those turkeys!

spyscribbler 11/22/2007 10:17:00 PM  

Thanks, Aimless! I hope you have a happy thanksgiving, too!

Bernita 11/23/2007 07:10:00 AM  

I don't belong there, Girl - otherwise, a wonderful post.
And I agree, we strive to be Ulysses.

J.K. Mahal 11/23/2007 01:03:00 PM  

Hmm...the perfect novel...

Genre: Magical suspense with romantic elements
Tone: A mixture of Jenny Crusie, Stephen King and the beginning of the Anita Blake Series
Twists & Gut-grabbers: Joss Wheedon
Style: L.M. Montogomery meets Nora Roberts
Heart: L.M. Alcott meets Frank Baum
Characters: Lisa Scottoline, Joss Wheedon
Details: Michael Ondaatje
Suspending Disbelief: Neil Gaiman
Pacing: Linda Howard
Plot: Robert Heinlein
World Building: Kim Harrison, Brian Fuller
Female Kickass Character: Joss Wheedon, Sue Grafton, Sarah Paretsky
Pure Storycrafting: Shakespeare, for the breadth of vision, if nothing else.

That was fun! Wonder what that novel would be. Maybe that's one to try and tackle after I finish the one I'm doing now :)


Mark Terry 11/23/2007 01:34:00 PM  

Wow, I'm flattered.

(If you knew my wife, you'd probably understand how I can write kickass female characaters. :))

spyscribbler 11/23/2007 01:46:00 PM  

Of course you do, Bernita! Silly.

Jen, I never thought of Robert Heinlein for plot. Mostly because I read most of his stuff before I knew what plot was, LOL. I should go back. I agree about the beginning of the Anita Blake series. Her world got bent a little, you know?

LOL, Mark, that's so sweet! I wish I did know your wife!

Barrie 11/24/2007 12:34:00 PM  

What an interesting post. Well, I'm writing mystery. And you've made me think I should go back and re-read some L.R. Wright. For me, her mysteries always unravelled perfectly. And, maybe now, I could figure out how she does it!

spyscribbler 11/24/2007 10:01:00 PM  

Barrie, I've never read L.R. Wright, but I'm going to have to check her out. I love a well-executed plot!