Tag Archive: Tannith Lee

One of the more ambitious things about INDIGARA by Tanith Lee is the way she tells the story.  There are three separate voices: Jet, the main character; her robotic dog, Otis; and an omniscient stage director.  So, being the anal-retentive scientist-type, I calculated out approximately how much of the book she spends in each point of view:

  • Jet’s Point of View: 65%
  • Omniscient Stage Director: 25%
  • Otis, the robotic dog: 10%

The amount of space given to Jet’s point of view isn’t surprising.  After all, it is a young adult book.  One of the hallmarks of young adult is a teen protagonist.  If you have multiple points of view, you’re supposed to indicate to the reader which is the most important by giving them the majority of the real estate in the book.  And Tanith Lee does just that.

Jet has an interesting enough voice to carry the story.  She sounds bored, sarcastic, and moody.  My inner fourteen-year-old totally relates.  One way that she makes the teenaged voice work is the liberal use of run-on sentences.  Take this example:

Like I remember her crying years ago when she was only thirteen and I was only nine, and I crept out of bed and went to her bed and climbed in and put my arms around her, and then we both sobbed and I said, Turquoise, what’s wrong?  And she said, I failed my exam.  I loved her, and I said she was so wonderful it wouldn’t count if she failed all her exams because in the end she would be a great movie star.

I skimmed all of the sections from Jet’s point of view.  While Ms. Lee does vary the sentence length with fragments and quick, short statements, long blocks of writing are run-on sentences like this one.  And it worked to make the protagonist sound young.

I expected Otis to get the second largest percentage of the book.  His narration was memorable.  He was the quintessential huffy, overworked nanny.  But obviously, he got the smallest percentage of the book.  I think that the author had to make the decision to tell the story this way.  Although Otis is a character who deserves more ‘screen time’ (so to speak), he’s also constantly at Jet’s side.  His point of view isn’t so different from her point of view.

To offset the mere 10% we spend in Otis’s point of view, Ms. Lee gives him the first and last narration in the book.  With this one strategic decision, she cements his importance without giving him much space.  I thought it was brilliant.

On the other hand, the omniscient stage direction is a useful tool.  First, it gives the reader a chance to look in on the real world when Jet goes into Indigara.  Second, stage direction in a screenplay can be used to describe the setting.  Ms. Lee uses that for that purpose in this book which is pretty sneaky, from a writer’s perspective.  Third, the voice is so flat and matter-of-fact, when Jet’s doppelganger in the real world wreaks havoc; it’s that much more entertaining.  Finally, when the point of view changes, there’s a header that announces it.  The omniscient stage direction has a variety of amusing headers including The Surprise:Extra Scene, Diamind City:Montage, and Outtake.  Honestly, if you skip over the headers, you miss a lot of humor. It helps keep the tone of the book light.

So, that’s INDIGARA by Tanith Lee.  This book may not be for everyone but I enjoyed it.  And it was a nice break from the deep and depressing that I seem to keep falling in love with.  I’ll see everyone on Friday!

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


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.

One thing that I loved about INDIGARA by Tanith Lee is that she managed to write a book with not one setting, but two.  Better yet, one is sci-fi and one is fantasy.  In INDIGARA, the “real world” is a future setting where people populate at least three planets, robotic dogs serve as baby-sitters, and the weather is controlled artificially. The movies they make in futuristic Ollywood are dreadful sounding titles like, Son of Beowulf Unchained, Building Rome in a Day, and (Turquoise’s big break) Fall of Super Troy.  I don’t know about you, but she had me at Son of Beowulf Unchained.

The other setting, INDIGARA, is the delightful compilation of all of the contrived, predictable plots since the beginning of story-telling.  Jet and her robo-dog Otis start their adventures in a dangerous forest.  The native people speak in another language, but luckily, there are subtitles to help her along (which really made me laugh).  The plot?  Brace yourself for this one: A beautiful queen is in love with the handsome leader of her mortal enemy’s clan.  Star-crossed lovers.  It never gets old.

You’d think that all this predictability and cliché would get tiresome, but it doesn’t.  Ms. Lee makes sure that Jet notices each and every oh-no-she-didn’t moment and point them out to the reader.  It has a very tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that worked for me.  I just don’t think that there’s much of anything harder to write than good humor.

As for the characters, here’s another case (Like FEED, but less artful) of an unfamiliar setting made more comfortable by very familiar characters.  Super familiar.  Too familiar.  In fact, all of the major players in INDIGARA are stereotypes.  The main characters are the three sisters: Turquoise, the gorgeous, prima donna eldest; Amber, the jealous middle child (Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!); and Jet, the invisible youngest.  With this book, you can take that stereotype to the nth degree times a billion and you have Ms. Lee’s characters.  Turquoise isn’t just gorgeous and popular–she’s set to become an Ollywood actress.  Amber isn’t just jealous, she’s obsessed.  Jet isn’t just ignored, she’s missing for forty hours before anyone even notices that she’s gone.  And you extend that analysis to just about every other character in the book: the artiste director, the super-hot leading man, and so forth and so on.  Oh, and we can’t forget Jet’s dog.  Otis is robo-Lassie on steroids.

Here’s why it works: Ms. Lee knows what she’s done.  She doesn’t create these character “types” even though, as a writer, she knows better.  She chose to break this writing rule to further the B-movie tone of the book.  Why do I think this?  Because, by the end of the book, we’re seeing glimmers of depth from each of the characters.  They’re break out of the mold and start to act like real people.  It was a pleasant surprise.

So next time, I’m going to analyze the plotting of INDIGARA.  What made me keep turning the page?  Everyone have a great weekend and I’ll try to answer that question on Monday.

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

I decided to go for a change of pace.  My next analysis will look at INDIGARA by Tanith Lee.  I chose INDIGARA for two reasons:

  • Tanith Lee’s bio mentioned that she’s published nearly 80 novels, 13 short story collections, and over 250 short stories.  Holy Cow!  At the pace I write, if I published my fist novel tomorrow, I would probably be around 110 years old before I got out my 80th–literally!  I had to have a look at the finished product of such a prolific writer.
  • The books that I write are not issue books.  I appreciate the sensitivity and craftsmanship it takes to write a book like SPEAK or TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY, but when I write, I like to world-build.  I like fantasy.  I like to pull someone into my imagination.  INDIGARA felt like it had some of those same characteristics and thus had plenty to teach me.
  • And finally–I’ll admit it–I judged a book by its cover. I had two books in my hands at the bookstore and was looking for a third.  I decided to get something I didn’t know anything about.  The cover art (the image above) by Daniel Dos Santos sucked me in.  It promised dragons and castles with a futuristic looking dog.  And, is that a gunslinger I see?  How do you say no to that?

Tanith Lee has a fairly simple but downright interesting website.  It feels like a blog and has lots of pictures, which always makes me happy.  Ms. Lee has gotten a number of awards, including the World Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy award.  However, unlike my usual analysis, she didn’t get any awards for INDIGARA.  In fact the book actually gets mixed reviews from on-line reviewers (WARNING: SPOILERS  The mixed, the bad, and the ugly).  Nonetheless, I liked INDIGARA.  For the next three posts I’ll try to explain why.

INDIGARA is the story of Jet, a 14-year-old girl, and her robot dog Otis.  Jet’s sister, Turquoise, lands a roll in a big budget movie in future movie-making Mecca, Ollywood.  So Jet, Otis, Turquoise, Mom, Dad, and a third sister named Amber move to Olliewood.  Bored with the whole movie-making scene, Jet escapes to the Subway, an underground city that’s a haven for unused sets, unproduced scripts, and washed-up stars.  One night, when fleeing from a group of sinister hobos, Jet gets sucked up into a pipe that delivers her to the world of Indigara.  She becomes quickly aware that the sets and scripts and shadows of the washed-up stars have congealed into a world that is the embodiment of an ongoing B movie.  Jet, with the help of her trusty robot dog, has to figure out if she wants to go back to the real world and, if so, how to pull it off.

So, as a fan of B movies, I thought this book was pretty darn funny.  It has its bumps and rough spots–sure.  If you try to take it seriously, you’re going to be aggravated.  But if you read it with an appreciation for cheese, you might just find yourself giggling like I did.

So, Friday, I’ll take a look at the characters in this story.  They’re designed to be stereotypes, much like you would find in a B movie.  But every once in a while you see a glimmer of depth that makes the story all the more amusing.  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.