I have a mantra when I’m writing: simple is better.  In my first novel, the world-building was very complex.  When the time came to write a query letter and pitch the book to agents, I had a devil of a time.  The synopsis was even worse.  I always write a one, three, and five page synopsis so I have varying lengths available, depending on what might be requested.  My one page synopsis was a mess.  The three pager wasn’t much better.  I learned my lesson.  Manuscript number two could be summed up in one sentence and I definitely got more interest in it.

When Tanith Lee was writing INDIGARA, she completely ignored my mantra.  She has two worlds, two version of each character (with different names), and (I’ll get into this more in my next post) three points of view. Follow that?  Bear in mind that this was a novella.  A meager 192 pages.  That’s a lot of stuff going on in such a little bit of space.  Honestly, if Tanith Lee was part of my writing group (which would be completely awesome, by the way) I would have told her to double the length.

Here’s another little tidbit.  Most young adult books have a really strong inertia.  By the time you’re about a third of the way into the story, you can feel the plot pushing you towards the end.  INDIGARA just isn’t like that.  It wasn’t like I was tempted to stop reading; the writing was far too interesting for that.  I just didn’t feel that push–that sense that I need to know how these story questions are resolved.

So, while playing with the concept of using clichés worked for me with the characters and even elements of the setting, I think it might have backfired a little bit with the plotting.  I knew that the relationship between the three sisters would probably work out; Jet would most certainly make it home a wiser, less sarcastic teenager; and the world of INDIGARA, thrown out of balance by Jet’s arrival, would undoubtedly regain its balance.  No surprises here.  And then you hit the very last chapter.  In that chapter, Ms. Lee hints at a future scenario that, if explored, could make INDIGARA nothing more than a prequel to the real story.  Which is part of what makes me believe the whole clichéd characters and B-style plot was completely on purpose.

So that begs the question: what made me keep turning the pages?  Why didn’t I put down this book if it lacked inertia?  The answer to that, quite simply, is that it made me laugh.  Jet’s voice was droll and amusing, particularly when she’s in INDIGARA and noticing all of the really bad plot and dialog going on around her.  And at one point Jet convinces a dragon to do her bidding by offering him a donut.  That one had me making a fool of myself by laughing out loud on the bus. Thanks a lot, Tanith Lee. 🙂

In my next post, I’m going to tackle writing style.  Like I mentioned above, this book is told from three points of view:  Jet’s (via her journal), Otis, her robotic dog, and through an omniscient third person narration that is in the style of movie-script stage direction.  It took a little bit of getting used to but I think this choice actually added to the humor.  Until then.

The cover art image is used with the permission of the artist, Daniel Dos Santos.  Visit his site for more of his fantastic artwork.

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