Thursday, 07 August 2014 12:38

From A Writer's Point of View

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Since 2005 I’ve kept notes on every novel I read. As a writer struggling to learn the craft I thought it would help to study the techniques of other authors. I made notes on the things I liked and wanted to emulate in my own work, and also what I didn’t like and wanted to avoid.

I’ve never posted these on Amazon or Goodreads as they’re not so much reviews as analysis purely for my own education. However since I’ve devoted this blog to the writing process it seems a good place to finally share them.

For starters, here are my notes on the book I just finished: Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay.

Barclay’s opening paragraph is subtly tantalizing, ending with the phrase, ‘…it turned out this was going to be the day.’

I much prefer this to the desperate attempts many suspense authors make to hook their reader with some shocking over-the-top opening scene. (The unnamed victim being stalked and/or murdered by the unnamed killer would have to be the most over used hook in the genre. I don’t know this person – why should I care?)

The rest of Barclay’s first chapter is simply a man walking down a street in NY taking in the sights. His slightly odd slant on what he’s seeing is enough to keep me interested. (That’s all it takes. No blood, no screaming, just an interesting character in an intriguing situation.)

It isn’t till near the end of the chapter, when the character looks up and sees someone being murdered in a window that the hook is set.

At it’s core Trust Your Eyes is basically the Witness plot (see blog post on Recycling Plots). Barclay gives the plot an original twist by having the protagonist’s mentally disabled brother as the witness – he sees something on the internet, the killers find out and come to silence them.

There are two main plot threads, one following protagonist Ray who’s trying to decide what to do with his brother Thomas after the death of their father who looked after him. The other following the criminals steps to eliminate all witnesses to their crime.

For most of the story the two brothers carry on oblivious to the danger they’re in and this works well to build tension. Through their interactions, both with each other and an old high school friend, Julie, we get to know and care about them. So when we see what the killers are doing to other witnesses and know the same fate awaits the brothers, it has much greater impact.

The story was good in itself but the twist at the end really made it something special. Just when I’d come to believe certain things about the characters, Barclay turned those beliefs on their head.

The ending also gave me an interesting insight into the book’s targeted readership. It seemed to me that if the story had ended without the final chapter it would target more readers of women’s fiction, perhaps even romantic suspense. But Barclay’s last chapter changes everything giving the story a much more disturbing resonant finish more suited to readers of hard core thrillers.

Interesting how that single chapter could change the whole market focus of the book.

 

 

 

 

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