Good morning everyone. I'm afraid I'm at work today, but I've managed to give myself an hour or so off and I've booked the Mayor's Parlour for our coffee morning. There are expensive M & S goodies and proper coffee, as well as a variety of posh teas. Please help yourselves (to tea, coffee and biscuits – not the silver!)
A few months ago my friend decided to conduct a little experiment and I was the subject of the hypothesis. It went something like this:-
'Can a writer identify why a particular novel is not such a good read as others published by the same author.'
She handed me a second-hand paperback which she had covered with brown paper to hide the author and title and told me I mustn't 'cheat' and try and find out who had written it. She had torn out the acknowledgement pages etc.
I have to say it was a mediocre novel. It wasn't memorable, and yet it wasn't that bad either. I wasn't able to identify the author from the work and I hadn't read the book before. There was a proliferation of various speech tags, for example 'he growled', 'she boasted', 'she sighed' and 'he said menacingly'. There were also quite a few splatterings of adverbs, but I honestly couldn't see any of this detracted from the enjoyment of the reading in any way.
I decided to mark the sections of the book that flowed well, and where I wanted to gallop to the end of the chapter, and then mark in a different colour the parts that didn't seem to work.
And then, eureka, I had it! It was head hopping that slowed the pace and made me lose interest. In several places the author had head hopped within a particular sub-section and in a couple of chapters there were three or more points of view batted back and forth within a couple of pages. Where the author had stuck to one point of view, either for an entire chapter or sub-section of a chapter, the story flowed much better.
It was a useful exercise and made me realise how important it is to tell the story from the right character's viewpoint for a particular scene, and to keep to that viewpoint for the entire section. If not, it will slow the pace and the reader will lose interest.
Now to Heavy Rain (there's a review on this website for those of you who might be interested) This computer game isn't 'played' in the traditional sense - it's like writing a story on screen as you go along, and it reminded me of the brown paper covered novel experiment. You can choose whose point of view you want to use and there are, I think, four choices. Within those four choices, you can decide what actions the character will take. It's like drawing a mind map or a decision tree and just like planning a novel. The story itself is a compelling and gritty murder mystery. There are different storylines, sub-plots and endings depending on the point of view you choose and the decisions you make as the game progresses. I didn't play it myself, but was completely absorbed when my son was playing it the other day.
Have any other Novel Racers analysed a published novel to find out what works and what doesn't? If so, what did you discover? Also, what do you think of the concept of computer games like Heavy Rain?