Hi all! Just want to remind you to get your entries in to win a copy of Treasures of Carmelidrium by N.R. Williams.
Also, I just want to say that I am trying to get around to everyone, but am falling behind between work and writing. Please bear with me.
On with the post...
I read in blocks. Up to recently, I was hip-deep in murder-mysteries and procedurals. Strange really, how I love the genre, but never even thought of writing in it. Maybe one day I will.
I'm now onto classics. First, I read The Sword in the Stone. On Saturday I finished Tom Sawyer (Again. Doesn't count as a reread to my mind because high school pupils apparently don't have the minds required to finish an unabridged book.) Yesterday, I tackled Huck Finn.
Never before have I read a book as educational from a writer's point of view. Really? You may ask.
Really, I answer.
The book was pretty much a study of what should be done as well as (dare I say it?) what shouldn't.
Here are the main lessons I learned.
1) Voice: From the very strange first introduction, I felt as if Huck was talking to my. Butchered English and all. But for once, I love that the language was mangled, because that's how he spoke. How he saw the world. Through Huck's word choices, I saw his view of the world, his rather interesting relationship with honesty and his cynicism. Nothing was explained about his character beyond what I knew from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but I felt like I knew Huck like an old friend by the time the book was done. Better even than I knew Tom.
2) Keep the story going. Every time Huck hit land, he had all sorts of adventures that showed him (and the reader) something. While these adventures could have frozen the story, there was always that escape to the river that meant that we would soon be faced with a new situation. And almost all of those adventures lead Huck to build a closer friendship with Jim. Because in the end, everything leads up to the climax where Huck has to decide whether he will help Jim escape of give him up into slavery again.
3) Build the stakes. The stakes here involved Jim's escape and Huck's decision with regards to that. He's beating himself up because he knows that what he does is wrong in his frame of reference (where people were seen as property), but we know that he isn't the sort that turns his back on a friend. How will he decide?
4) DO NOT SELL OUT AT THE END!!! I'm not really going to go into this too much, as some of you might not have read the book and I won't spoil the ending. Still, if you still want to read this book, I suggest you skip over the next paragraph.
I must say that Twain got away with murder at the end. I mean, who of us mere mortals would have survived the critics after wiping out all of the stakes and most of the impetus to the story? Why put us through the torture of Tom Sawyer's seemingly warped logic? I mean, they could have been killed. FOR NOTHING! I'm going to risk saying that he had a completely different (perhaps more tragic) ending in mind, but ended up bending to what he thought the public would want.
Perhaps what I learned most, is that one should strive to create characters that creep so deep into readers' hearts that they don't mind the imperfections so much. Because, oh yes, this was not a technically perfect novel.
But in every way that mattered to my literary heart, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was pretty much there.
So what do you think? If you didn't read Huck Finn yet, have you ever read a book that taught you a lot. How-to's don't count. ;-)
If you have read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, what do you think of what I learned? In particular, what do you think of point 4? Have I missed anything?