Thursday, July 9, 2015

Characterization: What I Expect Vs. What I Get

After my big announcement that I was going to work on writing in preparation for applying to KU, I hit a lazy slump. I didn't read or write or, obviously, blog a whole lot during June. I did, however, enjoy the crap out of my break. I went on vacation, visited family, and started a small business. Good times, over all.

I got around to reading again during Father's Day weekend. That Sunday, I finished The Diviners by Libba Bray. Though I enjoyed the book, there were some major things I could not get behind . . .

Click here to see the book's synopsis from Amazon.

One of the biggest problems I have with the book is the way Bray describes the physicality of her characters. I am a huge fan of Bray's The Gemma Doyle Triology, so I was really surprised to find that The Diviners fell short in terms of characterization.

The subtle nuances of character building were all there, don't get me wrong. I just couldn't envision her characters based on Bray's descriptions (or lack thereof).

Prime example: Bray does a fabulous job of describing the inner fears, concerns, and worries as well as joys, expectations, and loves of the primary character, Evie. However, the reader encounters virtually no physical description of Evie until well after page 150. Why was this an issue for me? Because I had spent so much time with Evie, because I had already made her my own, I had already created how she looked in my mind (for those of you that are curious: 20's curvy with shortish black hair a la Betty Boop).

Somewhere around the middle of the book, maybe a little bit after, a reference was given to Evie's blonde hair. Yeah, it is just her hair, but it was so distracting for me as a reader that I had to go back and reconstruct how Evie looked in my mind. This distraction broke the flow of the story in my mind, and I had to get back on track. A true sign of a good book is that it takes the reader on an wild, uninterrupted journey. The lack of cohesive character description earlier in the book kind of ruined The Diviners journey for me.

Smaller, but still distracting, issue: there is a point in the book (also towards the middle/end) where Jericho (research assistant for Evie's uncle) assesses himself in the mirror. It is at this point that the reader gets a solid idea of what Jericho actually looks like. Again, the issue is one of not getting to these details earlier in the book. The double whammy with this instance is the use of the mirror to convey these physical details. I have been sampling various writing books to improve my own writing, and not using a mirror or reflective surface and the character's self-assessment therein is touched on in every book. That is not to say that such a technique is "bad" or "wrong"; in fact, I was able to excuse this method of physical characterization based on revelations later on in the book.

Some books can break such rules and get away with it, but the rule breaking in The Diviners ruined the experience for me.

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