Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vanish - Day 2

Back for a second helping of Vanish by Tom Pawlik? Excellent!

I suspect this man has read The Lord of the Rings a time or two, or seen the movies, or both. Why? The reference to "a far, green country" near the end of Vanish. In the film version of The Return of the King, Gandalf spoke to Pippin of what waits beyond death as a far green country; at the end of the book, the far green country is what Frodo sees as he sails away to the West with the elves. Near the end of Vanish, it is the land that beckons Connor, a land that stands in contrast to the barren waste that is hell.

Addendum: Per an author interview over at Becky Miller's blog, my suspicions are correct. Pawlik is a Tolkien fan. Welcome to the Geekdom!

Speaking of author interviews, there's a Q & A segment on his website that includes this excellent piece of writing advice:

Q: In your opinion as a writer, what’s the key to creating suspense?
A: I’ll tell you in 15 seconds.

Q: Very funny.
A: An exciting story is not all action or fighting and chasing. It’s about making the reader wonder what’s behind the door or around the next corner. Suspense is not about what happens. It’s about what happens next. (emphasis mine)

Pawlik does an excellent job of setting up the scares, but not telegraphing them. And, despite my jaded view of scary literature, there are surprises. If there weren't, and if all my guesses had been correct, I would have put the book down long before finishing it.

Now, because Vanish is a piece of fiction with the label "Christian" attached, some readers might expect a sermon. Weeelll, there is and there isn't a sermon. Yes, Biblical truths are presented, and they play a huge part of the plot, but there's no neat bow at the end, no wrapping up of the story in a tidy little "altar call" where all the sinners "get saved" and everyone lives happily ever after.

And I like it that way. It's enough like life that I, the reader, can buy into the story. The characters aren't cardboard cut-outs. They speak, act, react like people I know. Like me. Though my style and genre are different from Pawlik's, his characters are the kind I strive to write: ones with whom the audience can identify, ones whom they understand.

If you read Vanish and are left wanting more, its sequel, Valley of the Shadow, is now available (both books are in paperback).


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Ah, I love looking at the work as a writer. Great job exploring how Tom created the suspense.

Interesting that you saw the far green country and connected it with The Return of the King. I thought at once of Narnia and going further up and further in.


Keanan Brand said...

I'm always interested in how successful writers tell their stories. One can get quite an education by studying what makes the good stuff good (and one can thus avoid the high cost of an MFA or other college-level courses, and still get a lot of quality information).

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Agreed ... and it's amazing how much studying you can do just through reading blog posts!