Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book Layers

by Julie Coulter Bellon

We’ve been replacing floors in our house for about two weeks now. It’s an interesting process because as we lifted one layer, there was another underneath, and then another underneath that. We ended up having to replace a layer because the people who built our house didn’t give the floors a very solid foundation. It reminded me a lot of writing and how if you don’t have a solid plot and character foundation, the layers on top of that won’t be stable and probably will need to be replaced. That’s why I think things like a light plot outline and a character bible can be so important in making our story foundations as solid as possible. Then when we add in sub-plots and secondary character arcs, it all flows nicely together to make a beautiful finished product.

I’ve been reading two novels recently that exhibit this characteristic. The first one is Imprints by Rachel Nunes. It’s a paranormal fiction about a girl named Autumn Rain. She has an extraordinary gift of reading “imprints” that are left on objects. The book starts out with Autumn trying to help two grieving parents who are searching for their missing daughter. The first chapter draws you in so subtly, and before you know it, you have a great character in front of you, one that is so intriguing you can’t stop turning the pages. I love how Autumn feels so real, with insecurities of her own mixed with hopes and dreams. Her quirks of never wearing shoes and only eating healthy food set her apart in this day and age, but it fits so well into the mold of her character it almost seems normal. The story moves along quickly and even though I shouldn’t have had an extra minute to finish it, I found myself almost compelled to finish it. My stomach was in knots when Autumn was in danger and I just couldn’t leave it. It’s a book that raises questions and leaves its own imprint long after you put it down. I felt like the paranormal element was just one more thread in a multi-faceted character who is so well-written she almost jumps off the pages. I think Nunes has provided us with a clean, well-written story that is multi-layered and like a spider’s web draws you in until you are so wrapped up in it, you won’t put it away until its done.

With an experienced writer like Rachel Nunes it’s seems almost effortless on her part to provide us with the foundation of the character right up front without the info dumps and to build the layers of foundation so that it’s a rich and fully developed story throughout. However, the second book I read was by a first-time author who also has a solid writing style and builds the same sort of foundation.

Turning Hearts by Deanne Blackhurst is the story about a woman who has had a dream that she is supposed to find someone and she is the only person who can do it. So she calls off her wedding and decides to go on an LDS mission. While I thought there could have been more emotion in the beginning so we actually felt how torn she was between the man she loved and her decision to find the people in her dream, the real foundation of the story comes as she leaves on her mission. The book is very realistic in how it depicts sister missionary experiences in the field with all the discouragement, successes, and pressing forward no matter what. It was interesting to read through the experiences, since I’ve never served a formal mission myself, and I thought that the main character was very realistic in her insecurities and how she deals with how difficult her life becomes. There is a nice twist at the end that gives the story even more depth, and I thought the author did a great job in showing growth in her characters. Blackhurst obviously knows how to weave a story that is inspiring as well as intriguing. My only real criticism, as I mentioned, was the lack of emotion in the beginning and how easy it seems to be for her to put off her wedding. I guess I just wanted to see her agonizing over it so I could feel it with her, but that small omission is like a knothole in the foundation, something that can be filled in and covered over later (and it was in the story). Deanne Blackhurst is a talented writer with a knack for depicting strong believable characters who are just trying to do the right thing. Her foundation is a little slower at being built, but once it gets going, it is full of well-written layers that lead to something beautiful and satisfying in the end.

While my floors are still a work in progress, I know in the end the floors will be beautiful and it will have been worth the time and effort. Just like Imprints and Turning Hearts, these novels have something unique about them and at the end, both of them are definitely worth having on your "Books to Keep Forever" shelf.


At 5/13/2010 6:55 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

I depend upon a plot outline. Without it I can get lost. Then I have to delete (while sobbing) thousands of hard thought words. But "character bible" is a new term to me. Is it more than just a separate outline/description work-up of your characters?

Great post!

At 5/13/2010 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 5/13/2010 8:15 PM, Blogger CTW said...

My characters become so real to me, I expect to see them grocery shopping. I love to read books that do this, too.
Sounds like these two are winners. Good post.

At 5/14/2010 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you say layers do you mean layers of subflooring? Plywood? Or did you have to remove layers of finished flooring like tile, mortar, wood flooring, carpet, and/or plastic?

I just finished a project where there was carpet on top of wood on top of tile on top of 3 inches of mortar on top of chicken wire. Yikes. Took me three weeks to sledg hammer out the mortar, haul it out to the garage and then put in two layers of subflooring to get everything level for the wood flooring. I filled the garage four boxes high with dusty mortar and old flooring that I had to haul away.

I sure hope writing a novel is NOTHING like your floor project. Or mine.

At 5/15/2010 9:35 PM, Blogger Anna Maria Junus said...

Nice tie in between your floors and writing.

I've never heard of a character bible either. Will you blog about that?


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