Holiday special! Actually, a two week long holiday special! For the next two weeks of blogs, I will be writing a different kind of blog post… don’t worry. It’s still about writing. And reading.
I will be writing a book review each day. But not a typical book review. I’m pretty much going to be choosing a new book each day that I’ve read and has been successful in some way, then giving tips on writing based off of that book. I’ll pull out things about the book that make people want to read it more, or the parts that really stuck out to me as a writer.
Let’s get started.
So today’s book is The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I’ll have links to the Goodreads pages of the author and book at the end.
This is a young adult sci-fi novel that was hugely successful. I’m not completely sure, but I want to say it was on the NY Times Bestseller’s List at one point… I’m pretty sure.
The story follows a girl named Ruby, who grew up in post-apocalyptic America. A disease has spread across the nation and is killing off children. The government is now collecting the children who survive the disease, who now have dangerous powers. On her tenth birthday, her parents realize she is one of the survivors and send her to these rehabilitation camps that the government is setting up.
She lives in one of the harshest and largest camps for six years. And she is keeping a secret the whole time. She pretends that she has one of the calmer powers, intelligence, when really she is one of the most dangerous, and might be the last because the others like her were killed.
Then the day comes that her secret is out, and she has to escape.
Even if your story isn’t young adult, or isn’t sci-fi, Bracken did all of the right things with her book, and it will help you too. Firstly, the story grabs you from the very beginning.
How? Just the first sentence. “Grace Somerfield was the first to die.”
If that doesn’t capture your attention, I don’t know what does. But Bracken doesn’t stop there. Having a good first sentence is important, but the sentence that backs it up is just as important. Maybe even more. You’ve gotten your reader to keep reading; don’t let them regret it.
“Grace Somerfield was the first to die. The first in my fourth grade class, at least.”
The next thing that this book is doing right is the description. Description, as I’ve said before, isn’t just putting a picture in someone’s head. It’s putting a picture that wouldn’t usually make sense, but is completely captivating and is vivid enough to make you think about it for a second.
For example: “My body shook in time with the bursts of static, curling in on itself like an old, yellowing piece of paper.”
I don’t know about all of you, but that makes me want to keep reading. The image I get from that is unique. I’ve never heard it put that way before, and that one is just the first sentence I happened to see for an example. There are so many more that are even better.
Finally, in most books, time is linear. Unless there’s time travel. Even then, there’s still the linear time of the character. Past, present, and future. We writers tend to focus so much about trying to get the reader to want to know what happens next. We always tend to build the story from beginning to end.
This book does that, but not in a normal way. It doesn’t just start back at the beginning and end at the end. It starts at the beginning, but it leaves you questioning. Throughout the entire read, I’m dying to know exactly what happened the day that she was shipped off to Thurmond (the camp), because the author keeps hinting toward something horrible happening that day.
So I keep turning the pages, dying to know. Waiting. And then I start to get even more caught up in the present, still wondering what exactly happened on her tenth birthday. And finally, when something huge happens, and I’m flipping pages faster than I can read them, I get an answer. Bracken waits until I can’t wait any longer to find out what happens in the present to tell me what I’ve been wondering the entire time in the past.
I don’t know why this works so well, but it does. It just sends so much emotion through the reader and just makes them turn pages all that much faster. I’ve talked to others who have read the book, too, and they all thought the same thing.
Here’s my challenge for you: If you haven’t already, try out these little things from The Darkest Minds that made people want to read it even more. Just to recap: Good hook and followup, vivid description and imagery, and think more about what order you want to tell the story.
Sorry if this one wasn’t as in depth, but they’ll get better throughout the week…
Here are the Goodreads links:
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!