Sunday, 12 July 2015

Books that Changed Me

Here's a blogging challenge


In 100 words or less describe a book (or film/film-script; or play; or poem ... you get the idea) that had a BIG, even LIFE-CHANGING effect on you. Basically, what you write will be a mini-review.

How do you achieve such a BIG task in so few words? 


First rule: as D.H. Lawrence famously, if somewhat patronisingly, wrote - show, don't tell

Well, for starters, you don't have time to introduce all the characters or retell the plot. You have to approach it somewhat differently. Ask yourself: what, exactly, did this book do to me?  Think of concrete examples. For instance, rather than writing, "this book moved me to tears," you could write, "I remember hugging it to my chest and crying when I'd finished." Do you see how much more vivid that rewrite is? Some other gems are: "My best friend Serena and I were always re-enacting key scenes in class"; and, "this wise, wondrous tome ... reacquainted me with my wild woman." 

The experience of reading "Puss in Boots" perhaps?

Second rule: find your angle.

There are so many things you can say about a book, even a small book, and maybe you've picked an enormous book. Clearly, you can't say them all. There are two main approaches to this dilemma, and sometimes you can combine both in the one review: a) suggest the scope of the book by casting your net wide and reeling in a jostling hoard of differently coloured sea-creatures, like so - "All life and some afterlife was here in vivid, gory detail. Heroism, wrath, fate; seduction, irony, pride… men were men, women had wiles and the gods were argumentative bastards"; and b) apply the microscope to one delicious, tantalizing detail that will evoke a bigger picture, like so - "the mysterious Beloved, a girl with no lines on her palms."


In a nutshell

Make it personal (not generic) - this is YOUR book, YOUR experience - and concrete (not abstract).

Thank you Jane Cornwall and the Age for the how-to examples.

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