Tag Archive - first page elements

First Pages of Best-Selling Novels: Avenue of Mysteries

 I chose one of John Irving’s novels—Avenue of Mysteries—to examine in this week’s look at first pages. I read a lot of his books decades ago. When The World according to Garp came out, I was fascinated by his wild and imaginative way of telling a story. That style has served Irving well, as he’s had numerous best sellers, some of which have been made into films (The Cider House Rules, The Hotel New Hampshire, to name a couple).

Irving’s story topics are wide and wild. It’s challenging, to say the least, to find success as an author by writing books that break so many structural and genre rules. Many of his books are hard to define and slot into a specific genre, and this novel is no exception.

Avenue of Mysteries (2015) is categorized as contemporary fiction, which is what most (maybe all?) of his novels are labeled. But he does throw in a lot of elements of other genres into his novels. Kind of a genre stew of many flavors. Continue Reading…

First Pages of Best-Selling Novels: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

For this week’s first-page examination, we’re going to dive into my favorite book that I listened to last year—The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. What made this book extra special was hearing the author read his own story. Not only does he have a beautiful voice; he’s an exceptional actor and brings richness to his story through his character portrayals.

Clearly an author would be the best person to read aloud his own book, knowing how and where to emphasize just the right words in the right way. But some authors, I imagine, are terrible narrators. Not so Neil Gaiman.

And, of course, all the marvelous acting skills an author may have won’t do much to gloss over a lousy book. Thankfully, in Gaiman’s case, his terrific oration is the sweet icing on a terrific cake of a story.

If asked, I wouldn’t know what genre to call this. It tops the Amazon charts in Science-Fiction/Fantasy, Coming of Age, Literature/Genre Fiction, and Contemporary Fiction (that last one is puzzling to me).

So what’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane about, and why do I rank it up there as one of the top ten novels I’ve ever read in my life?

Where to start? I could write an entire book on why this novel is so gorgeous. The writing itself, the characters, the story idea—it’s all stunning. It speaks to deep universal themes in a poignant and strikingly honest and simple storytelling manner. Continue Reading…

First Pages of Best-Selling Novels: All the Light We Cannot See

This week we’re going to look at the first page of the highly acclaimed novel All the Light We Cannot See by award-winning author Anthony Doerr. This book is described on Amazon as a “beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.”

With my curiosity aroused by a number of my editing clients who absolutely loathed this book and couldn’t get far into it, I checked out the audiobook from my library. Despite my determination to listen to the whole novel, I only made it into the second (of many) disks before I wanted to crash my car into a hillside in irritation (I listen to a lot of audiobooks as I drive).

Here again is another Pulitzer Prize­­–winner that leaves me scratching my head in confusion. Seriously, speak up if you not only got through this story but loved it.

What bothers me? The excessive narrative. We’ve been seeing how a lot of these best sellers open with pages of narrative. And what’s interesting to me is it seems the more famous and successful the author, the more narrative they succumb to. Well, at least in the literary fiction arena. Continue Reading…

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