Sunday, August 26, 2012

What I Learned About Storytelling from The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech

I read this book in one sitting, and it was a complete delight. I say this as a 21-year-old college senior unaccustomed to reading Middle Grade. It releases September 4, 2012. 

The twelve-year-old, neurotic Naomi has a violent past and a childlike perspective, but a refreshingly sophisticated voice. Her sarcasm and levelheadedness contrast her friend Lizzie Scatterdinghead’s innocent, tactful chatterboxing in one of the best foils I’ve ever witnessed.

When a little Irishman falls out of a tree and knocks her over, he becomes her first crush. Duh dun SHHH. 

As the opening chapters suggest - Naomi and Lizzie refer to Finn as “a body” and as “it” - he’s mysterious enough to make you wonder, for some time, whether he’s paranormal.  Meanwhile, a couple of women casually plot “murders” across the ocean, and many dots link Naomi’s and Lizzie’s little country town of Blackbird Tree, and the dots demand explanation. 

What I learned about storytelling: I’ve got a countdown this time. 

3. Interactive character description is incredibly vivid. When the book comes out, I will be copying a passage about Joe from chapter 7. 

2. I remember this trick from Walk Two Moons. Creech adds some distance to the love stories woven into these middle grade books, maybe to tone down the romance for younger kids, maybe to add poignance and mystery, maybe both. The most intimate scene in the book is told in two parts, with a brief intermission, in past perfect tense.  

1. There’s a saying about writing: “Don’t leave the gun on the mantle.” If a character puts a gun above the fireplace, that gun better fire before the story’s over. Sharon Creech doesn’t just fire the gun. She takes every single item on the mantle and turns it into a weapon. If a bad guy broke into her proverbial plotting house, he’d get shot with all the guns, stabbed with all the candles, have his ribs broken by a giant clock, his head bashed in by books. In The Great Unexpected, Creech ties together threads that you’d forgotten about, and it’s as delightful as golden thread spun from straw. 

To break it down a little more: I think the motifs and repeating imagery of this book create a narrow world. Crows, trees, wrinkles, dogs, Finns, and more crows. It’s comfortable, then it’s almost annoying until it gets comforting again - and then the world expands, and it’s great and unexpected. 

No comments:

Post a Comment