Monday, March 28, 2011

Maze Runner, something Wanda Ottewell told me and a little Courtney Milan for good measure

About two months ago Sinead handed me The Maze Runner and said it was an incredible lesson in introducing problems and pacing. Sinead has never steered me wrong so I dug in. And then put it down, for two months. The premise is incredible - a teenage boy is going up an elevator, he has no idea where he is or where he's going. He has no memory. He arrives to a small community of teenage boys who live in this glade set up in the middle of a maze that they are supposed to solve. There are terrible beasts out there that will sting you and kill you and are very scary. Amazing, right?

But I put the book down because the beginning is sooooo bogged down with this strange language with the boys use, and clumsy characterization, but what really bothered me is the hero had all these questions - as you would expect - and instead of answering them, or finding a reason for the other boys not to answer them, the author choose to have the characters say ridiculous things like "shut your mouth, you're not listening." Or the conversations got interrupted or something equally unsatisfying. Chapters of this.

Which reminded me of something Wanda Ottewell said about writing. If I am worried that a conversation between characters will somehow ruin the drama of my book - be it conflict or character or whatever - then as a smart writer I need to make sure they have the conversation and it creates MORE drama. Be it a big misunderstanding, or a secret or a world detail - whatever, you can only hold that conversation off for so long before the reader gets sick of it. So why not own the problem and create something unexpected.

Which made me think about Courtney Milan's newest book Unveiled. I'm three quarters of the way through this book which is basically a revenge/secret story. And at every turn Milan reverses my expectations. I'm a smart reader - I think I know what's going to happen and she honestly makes the opposite happen in a way I am not expecting at all. It's pretty damn great and easily her best book yet.

Maze Runner gets really good once the question answering doesn't matter. The pace absolutely sings, surprises at every turn and the world is very compelling. So, once again Sinead is right. So, two good books...I'm on a reading roll.


Stephanie Doyle said...

I'm on a huge reading roll... I also just finished Unveiled and it was my favorite of Milan's to date. And I've really liked all of her books.

I really love what she does with this hero. I liked him. Me and this guy would get a long... and sometimes (crazily enough) that's not always the case with heros I'm turned on by.

And I know what you mean about having the conversation. She does make you wait for it, but the twist of how it works out was very real to me.

Great book.

Eileen said...

What to reveal and when to reveal it. It makes my head spin some times. I love the idea of having the reveal create more questions.

Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, Molly. I need to read both of those books...

Sinead M said...

And now you have to add Incarceron to the list of TBR, it's really compelling.

And I want to get my hands on that Milan book, as soon as I'm done this WIP. I need incentive.

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