Amy Reichert



Symmetry

A traditional component of classical beauty is symmetry. Think about the roman arches, the Eiffel Tower, or the face of Audrey Hepburn. All of these have symmetry. Great art, while not perfectly symmetrical, has a certain balance to it.  Similarly, I would argue a good book has symmetry. Characters, themes, settings, images recur, adding meaning and depth to a story. For example, in Harry Potter, one of the first things we learn about him is his scar. It makes him identifiable, different, it also represents a unique connection between him and Voldemort, and the future confrontations between the two. The…

Sometimes I Learn What Not To Do

I struggled while writing this blog, because for the first time since I started this series, I really didn’t like the book. I wanted to love it, really. The author, Jennifer Weiner, is a strong voice for women’s literature in the publishing industry. Her books fall directly into one of my favorite genres, and she has a wicked sense of humor used to great effect in her writing. But alas, dear reader, Best Friends Forever reminded me that sometimes I need to learn what not to do.  The novel follows Addie Downs, a 30-something woman with no friends, no real…

Revenge of the Book with the Great Opening Line

When you think of great first lines, your mind probably recalls Austin’s “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” or Melville’s “Call me Ishmael,” or maybe even Tolkien’s “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”  These, and all opening lines, try to accomplish many things. They might set the tone for the book: light-hearted, serious, silly. We might get hints about the main characters: Are they happy, sad, not human? We should get a sense of the author’s writing style: humorous, literary,…

Making Theme Matter

Spoiler Alert: This article will use some sentences from the last page of the novel. While this won’t tell you how things happen, it will reveal the final words of the novel and the characters who say them. You’ve been warned.  I have a new book to add to my favorites list (who can pick just one?). The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. Perhaps it’s the switch from the fast-paced YA I’ve been reading, or that it takes place at a fictional college almost exactly where my alma mater is (St. Norbert shout out), or that I’m just really…

Pacing Perfection

A common piece of advice when writing is to hook or grab your reader’s attention immediately in your first chapter, or first page. Many writers interpret this as intense action or life-changing event. As a result, you get a lot of novels starting with explosions, chases, and death. All can be very effective and engaging, but it can get a little old and cliche – like having a character dreaming or waking up.  While reading Maureen Johnson’s The Shades of London series, (The Name of the Star and The Madness Underneath – read them – they’re great), I was struck…

The Perks of Perspective

I have mixed feelings about novels written from the first person point of view. It seems 90 percent of the books I read these days use first person. Sure, it adds intimacy, you usually get access to the main character’s thoughts and reactions, and it makes for some interesting storytelling. But I must admit, I miss a third person narrator, someone to give me different perspectives on the story’s events. Being in one person’s head can skew the reader’s understanding of what really happened. How do I know I can trust the storyteller to tell it true? And there in…

Playing with Expectation

When I started reading Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray, I planned to discuss retellings as a fun approach to plotting a novel. The novel plays with Romeo and Juliet, complete with warring families and star-struck love. She updates the story with main characters in their 60s, florist shops and children as the worst offenders in the generations old feud. I’m sure it would have been a delightful topic.  But then I started chapter four and found a passage so well done, I knew I needed to write about that. Here’s the excerpt: When my girls were growing up I…

Fun is in the Details

I like quirky things. Quirky books, quirky songs, quirky rings, quirky people, the word quirky. I was into Star Trek way before it was cool to be a nerd (just ask my college roommates). I spent a lot of time rewatching the Labyrinth, The Goonies and The Little Mermaid in high school. I was a super nerd hiding in a cheerleader skirt. Now, I’m a flag-flying unabashed nerd, complete with my own magic wand (14 inches, almond wood, phoenix core). So, dear reader, when I’m reading, I appreciate the silly, the geeky and the absurd.  While reading Let it Snow,…

Why I do this?

Sometimes, you pick up the right book at the right time, almost as if an angel set it atop the to-read pile as a special message just for you. So, dear reader, I start today with a big thank you to the guardian angel that placed Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird next in line. My intention with this blog series is to learn by example, study the choices authors make while writing, get under the surface and see what magic they employ. Lamott’s book has plenty to study. She intertwines spot-on writing advice with funny and apropos anecdotes. (Don’t you…

Revealing the Puzzle Pieces

Before diving in, a bit of housekeeping. I don’t intend for these columns to serve as reviews, though in this case, I do highly recommend all of Cassandra Clare’s books, especially if you enjoy Young Adult Urban Fantasy. Also, I will do my best to keep these articles spoiler free. I would never ruin a good book for a future reader! Now on to business.  Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series consists of six books, City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Lost Souls, City of Fallen Souls, and City of Heavenly Fire (to be released…