Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Broken Angel 02: The Good Points

Anyone who saw yesterday's post about Sigmund Brouwer's Broken Angel probably got the impression I'm not keen on it. That's not altogether true: most of the story works really well, and most readers will likely have no problems with it. Tomorrow I'll cover the areas that bothered me. But there are also some good points, and a few of them are unusual.

1. Fact-checking. I doubt anyone else will mention this one: "Cars don't explode when they burn... That's just a myth." (p. 170) They don't automatically catch fire and explode when they crash, either. Brouwer has all these facts right, which tells me his idea of research isn't watching a lot of videos. It always helps me to know that a writer has done some actual homework. (Anyone who has followed this blog very much knows that silliness about explosives is a pet peeve of mine.)

2. Characterization. This covers a lot of ground, but I mostly mean that the characters and their actions are believable. You can't predict their moves, but neither can you consider them random or forced. (I deplore writing where a character's only apparent reason for doing something is because the writer so decided.)

3. Setting-up. One of the signs of a true hack is pulling some gimmick out of thin air at the last moment. A half-hearted hack will set up such a gimmick in advance, but with plenty of "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" so that only the truly clueless will fail to see what's happening. A pro can set up something so subtly that you don't even realize it until he triumphantly pulls it out at the proper moment. Brouwer is very good at setting up. An apparently random detail or incidental action will eventually turn out to be critical. If you're a writer, you ought to read this book just to get an idea of how to handle one of the most challenging tasks in the fiction business.

For that matter, he can even get away with some almost ex-post-facto setting up, as when Outside lawman Carson Pierce reveals that he has outwitted villainous bounty hunter Mason Lee's attempt to conceal his location: you don't see it happen, but it matches the information from the time in question quite well and is exactly right for all the characters concerned.

4. Storytelling skill. I mentioned yesterday that Caitlyn's peculiarity is easy to figure out. That would be a fatal error for most writers and most books. Here, however, the story is compelling enough that the mystery isn't necessary. Just as fans knew full well Anakin Skywalker was going to don the helmet eventually, it's getting there that's the draw. In fact, I'll spoil my own suspense slightly by admitting that I'm going to recommend this book especially for writers who need a good example.

Tomorrow, I'll explore a few problem areas. In the meantime, see what the rest of the CSFF tour has to say:
Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Mark Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McNear
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Sean Slagle
James Somers
Donna Swanson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams

1 comment:

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

All the things you point out are right on, Steve. I thought the characters were engaging. Funny, though. When I read it, switching to so many point of view characters bothered me, and one of my pet peeves is being in the mind of the antagonist--makes me too sympathetic to him and dampens my fear, as a general rule. But by the time I was at the end of the book, I'd forgotten all that.

I suspect your problem areas may cover some of the thematic content. I'll be interested in your thoughts.


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