Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Once Upon a Drama: Writing an Unforgettable Chick Lit Novel

     I realize (and profusely apologize) that I have not written a Writer’s Wednesday post in some time. Not to make excuses, but I just wrapped up school for the summer, it’s been Annual Budget and Start of Repair time at work and finally, my fiancé and I just adopted a baby, feral kitten (who, every time I open my laptop, feels the need to walk all over the keyboard, either changing the current webpage I’m on or writing all kinds of gobbledy-gook on the page). But anyways, I missed my blog. I missed writing, reviewing and especially, reading the feedback from loyal readers like you.

     I just finished an excellent novel (and my first) by author Jane Fallon called Getting Rid of Matthew. Although it was about the darker side of marriage, elaborating on the topic of affairs, lovers, wives and best friends who may not always be who they seem, it was a thoroughly enjoyable, exciting and entertaining story. The dramatic flair with which this story was written and narrated in made for a highly enjoyable and memorable read. (And the older I get, the less room there seems to be in my brain for things like books and movies so if I can remember mundane details weeks or months later, then I figure it must have been authored more than proficiently.)

     Anyways, it got me to thinking about my own writing process and writing in general and how authors must have to use certain techniques and tactics to truly engage their readers in the dialogue, plot and tone of their stories. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a few choice or exact ingredients that someone could tell you to use to create a Bestselling Chick Lit Novel that went all the way to #1 on the New York Times Book Charts and then Sony came along to request the rights to make a movie out of it starring Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie? Unfortunately and luckily all at once, there is no set recipe for success in writing or producing a book. I say unfortunately, because if there were such a recipe, anyone and everyone who wanted to write a book could do so with great ease. From a similar vantage point, I say luckily, because without such a recipe to write a bestselling book, the whole process and creation of your novel becomes such a wondrous accomplishment that no one can take away from you, being unique to you and you, alone.

     For example, Jane Fallon took a risk with Getting Rid of Matthew by depicting the classic dilemma of an illicit love triangle from the perspective of a mistress who doesn’t want her lover once he leaves his wife (for her, no less!). Not only does this unique plot twist engage the reader a thousand times more so than the usual drama of the married man who won’t ever leave his wife for his lover, but this is only the beginning of the risky plot layers that unfold. First, married and successful business man, Matthew shows up on the doorstep of his mistress, Helen. Despite the fact that she’d been begging him for four years prior to leave his wife for her, she had finally reached a place in her life where she was “all set” with him and so when he shows up with all his belongings in tow, Helen is speechless, to say the least. The guilt at being the reason for his pending divorce is enough to drive Helen mad and at least to keep her from denying Matthew a place to stay. The story continues as Helen develops elaborate scheme after elaborate scheme in her attempt to be rid of Matthew once and for all. In the midst of her zany efforts, she loses her job (as well as the respect of her coworkers), befriends Matthew’s wife and falls in love with his son. While trying to juggle all the (secret) parts of her life and be rid of Matthew in the least hurtful way possible, Helen somehow manages to find herself in the midst of this wondrous little mess she’s made for herself. All in all, Jane Fallon took an expected premise to a chick lit novel and turned it upside down and inside out, making for an unpredictable, roller coaster ride of emotions, friendship, love, marriage, affairs and of course, ensuing hilarity. I was utterly fulfilled by the story’s end and sadly disappointed to say goodbye to the trio that brought life to this chick lit novel.

     What kinds of elements do you hope for or look for in a chick lit novel (or any novel for that matter) that give it that extra edge of mystery, drama, seduction, excitement or something else that makes a novel outstanding? Is it something about the climax or the climactic build up? Is it some sense of dramatic flair? What makes one plot or one character stand above the rest? Share with me and everyone else here!

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