Monday, March 19, 2007


Yes, I'm being lazy today.

I've spent the whole day sitting on the couch reading Preacher. All of t--well, actually I'm taking a breather now, between volumes seven and eight, because I know it's Monday and I need to blog. So that's what I'm doing, but I admit I'm glancing repeatedly at the arm of the couch, where Volume 8 waits for me.

The thing about Preacher is, it's an amazing story. It's a hugely long story--I believe it ran 70 issues? Does anyone remember--I'm sure my husband would but he's in transit and I don't feel like calling him. I remember it was supposed to be 75 but seem to recall it fell a few short. And to be honest, there's a whole section of the story in there I could have done without, where the MC becomes a sheriff, because it's essentially dull and doesn't move the story forward at all.

But in essence, Preacher is a hell of a read, based in large part on a compelling premise--man finds out God quit, goes on worldwide journey to confront him--and on the fact that the craziest shit in the world keeps happening. One insane, over-the-top character ends up in one insane, over-the-top situation after another, and you can't wait to see what will happen next (another reason why the small-town sheriff bit disappointed me so).

I think it's hard sometimes, when writing, to remember that you can make up any crazy shit you want. The story doesn't have to follow the rules. People don't have to be just like people you meet everyday, they can and should be larger-than-life--at least some of them. Coincidence can happen, it happens in real life often enough.

We know we have to keep increasing tension. Start the tension high, keep setting it higher. But we're reminded so much about pacing and rules and showing not telling--important lessons, all, yes--that I think sometimes we forget that in a story, anything can happen. Today we pick on the deus ex machina, but to the Greeks, this was crazy! The Gods stepped into the real lives of man, woo-hoo! (And the Greeks lived much closer to their Gods, as well.)

I think it's easy to become so scared of being seen as someone who's making things up that we forget the reader wants to be amazed, the reader wants to be entertained. It's called willing suspension of disbelief, and we should use that willingness as often as we can. We should always, always wonder what the craziest possible thing to happen could be--and then do it, and keep piling it on.

What story twists caught you out of the blue? What do you remember reading and thinking, "Wow!"


Anonymous said...

The first time I read Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, the whole thing caught me off guard. I don't know what I was expecting or why I wasn't expecting what I got, but everything in that book just made me go "wow". -V95

Anonymous said...

Maeve Binchy's "Tara Road". I actually dropped the book when a key character's husband admitted to cheating. Then I went back and looked for clues. Sure enough, they were there, but I (and the key character) hadn't seen them.


Arin Rhys said...

Yup, I was reading the last book in Tamora Pierce's The Magic Circle quartet and when the plague had been revealed to not be from some big baddie but from the mistakes of a poor mage who no one had ever heard of. That was a surprise, but it was a satisfying surprise because it added realism to a magic-filled book. Sometimes little mistakes can mean big trouble in real life, and Pierce showed how it could happen in a fantasy realm.

littlebirdblue said...

Did you and I both happen to pick the same 'rules' topic for today's post?

See, right there; coincidence you wouldn't make up.

December Quinn said...

Ooh, I have to write that one down, V95, I've never even heard of it before!

Hi, Heather! Tara Road is one of my favorite books! I was surprised, too...not that he was cheating (I'd read enough Binchy by that point to know that all of her charming men cheat), but who he cheated was the betrayal that stunned me, if you know what I mean. :-)

December Quinn said...

Another book I have to write on my list, Arin, thanks! Yes, it is nice to see realistic outcomes, too. I've written something similar--the bad guy end up getting the info etc. he needs because someone else thinks he's doing the right thing, but it is of course actually the wrong thing.

Oh, no, sorry lbl! I haven't actually checked anyone's blog today, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to steal your topic!

BernardL said...

The Preacher comic book series, in DC comics Vertigo line, went to 66 issues, with a number of mini-series additions. It was a compelling story line in parts.

December Quinn said...

Thanks, Bernardl! I probably should have clarified--I'm re-reading Preacher; I read it in issues as they came out. :-)

Did you read it?

Anonymous said...

Lots of people seem to be blogging about rules lately ;)

Skye O'Malley by Bertice Small. Most romance novels tell the story of what happened in the first few chapters of this book that is the beginning of a saga.

Clive Barker's Imagica also comes to mind. Mainly because there were points where I lost that suspension, but he drew me back in every time.

bunnygirl said...

Thanks for the recommendation! I've been reading the "Y: The Last Man" series, and I'm becoming very impressed with graphic novels.

I've added "Preacher" to my wish list and will order the first 2-3 in the series after I finish the "Last Man" series. :-)

December Quinn said...

I think Clive Barker's in kind of a class by himself, Seeley, especially when it comes to crazy shit!

You know, I started to read one book by Bertrice Small once, and really enjoyed it until the heroine did the stupidest stupid thing any heroine has ever done and I threw the book away, one of the few books ever I didn't finish. I think Bertrice is awesome as far as her body of work, I love that she's reissued some of her old titles herself to keep them in print, etc. But this heroine just went too far for me.

The H had this brother he never talked to and he told the h the brother was evil. The H's sister, who the h loved, told the h the brother was evil. So the h decides she needs to sneak away to visit the brother and try and mend fences.

Of course he sells her into white slavery. DUH!

December Quinn said...

You're welcome, bunnygirl! I could recommend tons of graphic novels for you, starting with Watchmen by Alan Moore because it's basically THE graphic novel. Preacher is up there, though.

I couldn't get into Y:TLM. Hubs and I read the first couple but it just didn't keep up the way it seemed to start. We love Willingham's "Fables" though, which is still an ongoing series and is excellent.

Bernita said...

Excellent post.
We're often caught between those two Big Greek Rocks - realism on one side and we can Make Things Up on the other.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Oooh... I gotta read this!

Lots of stuff blows me away. The things people come up with -- it's just amazing. We are a wonderful, complex, imaginative, resilient and colorful species, humankind.

Robyn said...

V95, You like Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, YAY! One of my faves!

Actually, mine was a sort of reverse twist. The kids in To Kill a Mockingbird had a whole urban myth about Boo Radley, the haint who put poisoned pecans in the yard to lure innocent children to their doom, then to find out he's just a rather sad man who winds up saving them in the end. Loved it.

December Quinn said...

Yes, it's worse than a rock and a hard place, isn't it, Bernita? Maybe that should be the new cliche.

Yes, SW, you really should read it--or them, because there are eight volumes. Totally worth it. Look for them used if you must. :-)

December Quinn said...

Oh, Robyn, I loved that! I love To Kill... anyway, but I agree, that was the best twist! I get tears in my eyes every time I read the part where she referes to herself, Jem, and Dill as "Boo's children".

BernardL said...

Yea, I read the series as it came out, and I'm a big Garth Ennis fan. No one does violence with a plot like he does. The 'Saint of Killers' offshoot mini-series Ennis did was pretty wild too. 'Preacher' was shocking in 1995 when it came out, but it would probably get a 'yawn' from the Snark if it were introduced today. :)

littlebirdblue said...


Steal my topic--hehehe, that's a good one.

I actually notice things come to our collective attention in waves. I think it makes perfect sense that we aren't noticing things all by our lonesomes. We ain't blogging in a vacuum. Vacuums?

Sam said...

I was reading 'My Sister's Keeper' by Jodi Picoult, and I got to the last page and got a huge shock. (I won't spoil it) But I will NEVER read another one of her books - she is, to my mind, the worst kind of emotional manipulator and I won't go through that again.
(The book hit the wall, and I didn't even bother lending it to anyone else, I just threw it straight into the trash.)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Robyn. Spyder Robinson is way cool. I think he tokes while he writes.

December Quinn said...

I do recall the big shock value, Bernardl! And feeling all tough and cool because I read Preacher.

I'm a hard girl, me.

True, lbl. Like how suddenly three movies will be made about the same topic.

December Quinn said...

I've heard something about that ending, Sam--not what it is, but that there's some Big Surprise Thing. I've never read Picault at if I ever decide to I'll stay away from that one!

kis said...

Yanno, when you think about it, how many muggings are interrupted by earthquakes? How many intimate moments are cut off by vocanic eruptions, propane explosions, building collapses? How many people out there, about to profess their love while stopped at a red light never get to say it because some drunk got behind the wheel? Logic would seem to dictate that such things happen--maybe not all the time, but they do happen.

Randomness is a part of life. But how many books are there out there that have these kinds of random elements as secondary plot devices? I mean, there are plenty of disaster stories that revolve around earthquakes, tornadoes, car crashes, ocean liners capsizing or sinking, volcanic eruptions, even asteroids striking earth. How many stories use deus ex machina half-way through? A handy, random bolt of lightning to fry the bad guy at the critical moment. A tornado picks up a semi and chucks it on the chump she was going to marry, so she can pick the right guy after all.

Try to write one, I dare ya. You'll get laughed out of a publishing contract. But authors--and agents and editors sometimes fail to realize--shit happens. Weird shit, random shit, completely improbable shit happens. Serial killers get cancer and die before they're caught, or keel over of a heart attack before they get the chance to kill that last victim. Meteors occasionally hit people. So do drunk drivers (and sober ones) and stray bullets. Somehow, there's this rule in literature that you're not allowed to employ fortuitous coincidence as the resolution of a story. It can be the initiating event, it can be the central theme, but that's as far as it goes. And if you do have some random element, like that loonie with the A-bomb in The Stand, you better introduce him early and keep reminding the reader he's there, so when he blows up the bad guys at the critical moment, nobody's too shocked.

December Quinn said...

That's a really good point, kis. Look at the Zodiac. They never caught him, and everyone assumes he just died anonymously, or was caught for some other crime, or something. Who's to say he didn't die while planning a comeback?

And yes, randomness...I think the desire to avoid it in literature is a desire to control the universe. We can't stop good people from being hit by cars or lightning in the real world, but dammit we're not going to let it happen in our books, where we have a say in it!

And I'm guilty of this a little too, I think, because I won't buy a book if I know a child dies in it. I just don't want to read that, I just don't want that to happen.I may revisit this as a post one day soon, because that's a really good thought you have there. Thanks!