Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rather Overanalyze a Book Than Dwell on Depression

Thursday - Entry 11:

I have noticed that if I read a book to escape the weight of depression, the weight catches up to me when I finish. It's not the most efficacious therapy, though I do enjoy the short respite from the tension and sadness.

So, today's escape… I started reading Brad Thor's THE APOSTLE. He builds a realistic setting through a copious amount of details, but I wonder if it's too much. Thor obviously loves his Harvath character. The entire story perked up the moment Harvath arrived. Unfortunately, that wasn't until chapter six.

When authors work up characters for their books, some like to have very detailed character sheets. They list details for everything about those characters: background history, physical features, likes and dislikes, favorite soda, &c. These details help the character become real for the author, and, theoretically, more real for the reader. I wonder if perhaps this is how Thor works.

The problem with details is that they slow down the narrative flow. They successfully build the setting in one's mind as if detailed in concrete, but that weighs down the moment. Obviously, not every moment needs to be rapidly paced, so a writer looks for balance. It is something I am still exploring in my own writing.

I felt that as each character in THE APOSTLE was introduced, we were treated to way too many details about their thoughts, likes, and background history. And the story slowed down for me.

Detailed character histories shouldn't weigh down the story. It is important to help the readers have images in their minds, but knowing family member names and other extraneous details just becomes noise when it has no bearing on the story. And considering that Thor's writing absolutley sparkled when Harvath appeared, I don't feel the copious details in the previous chapters helped him with the story either.

All that being said, Harvath is the main character, so if Thor's writing sparkles whenever Harvath is on the page, I am likely in for a good read. These were just my thoughts. I'd much rather overanalyze a book than dwell on my depression.