Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Want to Write Like Her!!!

Because I've so many times held Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond up as a model work of fiction, I decided it might be good if I actually went back and read it instead of relying on my memory. Sometimes, you know, memory isn't completely reliable. But in this case, it was, and re-reading Witch has reinforced my hero-worship of Elizabeth George Speare!

I read differently this time than I did as a teen, having studied the art of fiction writing over the years (I had never heard of "show, don't tell" back then!). One of the things I found myself appreciating this time around was the way Speare developed the romantic relationship between Kit and Nat (oops, sorry for the spoiler if there's actually anyone out there who hasn't read this book). Not until the last chapter, like four pages from the end of the book, does Kit realize what she feels for Nat is love. The reader is aware of how good they are for each other long before Kit is. And maybe it's just me, but there's something so satisfying about watching it develop instead of being told it is developing. For example, I found this section amusing:
"She expected that when they reached South Road Nat would turn back, but to her consternation he strode along beside her, and even when she hesitated at Broad Street he did not take the hint. The happy mood of the afternoon was rapidly dissolving in apprehension. Why on earth had Nat persisted in coming too?"
Well, we know why!

Later, in what would I suppose be the climax of the story (when Kit is at a hearing to determined if she should be tried as a witch), I got the same thrill reading the following passage that I had the first time I read it:
"Every voice was suddenly stilled. Almost paralyzed with dread, Kit turned slowly to face a new accuser. On the threshold of the room stood Nat Eaton, slim, straight-shouldered, without a trace of mockery in his level blue eyes"...(skip a couple of pages)..."In the warm rush of pride that well up in her, Kit forgot her fear. For the first time she dared to look back at Nat Eaton where he stood near the door. Across the room their eyes met, and suddenly it was as though he had thrown a line straight into her reaching hands. She could feel the pull of it, and over its taut span strength flowed into her, warm and sustaining."
She doesn't call it love yet, but as a reader, I'm saying "Yes!" It's just right, in every way.

That's the reaction I want to bring my readers to. They say a person ought to write what he/she would like to read. In that case, I think I need to spend less time on agent blogs and more time really studying what Speare has done, and Janice Holt Giles, and Ann Turnbull, and Lisa Klein. Those are the literary footsteps I want to follow. If I can come close, I'll be happy, even if my work is never published.

(And Ann, if you read this, I'm not sucking up - I mean it!)

1 comment:

Ann Turnbull said...

Thank you! And I think I need to study Speare too. In fact, all writers should keep reading - though it's something we often feel short of time for. I'm now going to look up Lisa Klein and Janice Holt Giles...