by Bryan Patrick Avery
In magic, as in life, things aren’t always what they seem. That’s part of what makes magic so astonishing, and enjoyable. One of the reasons the sponge ball trick has stood the test of time, and remains an audience favorite, is the surprise the spectator feels when they open a hand they think holds one ball and two, three, or four are there. Because things aren’t what they seem, we’re on our guard, which also means we’re more engaged.
The same principle holds true in literature. Stories where the unexpected or unpredictable happen engage readers and pull them deeper into the story. This month let’s look at a couple of books that do just that.
Coraline, written by Neil Gaiman, tells the tale of a young girl named Coraline, who is, by all accounts, an ordinary girl. When she finds a special door in her very ordinary house, she encounters a house very much like her own, complete with another mother and another father. She loves it at first and feels loved. It doesn’t take long, though, before she realizes that this new house is anything but wonderful and wants nothing more than to return to her old house, and old life.
What makes Gaiman’s novel so compelling are the little touches he adds to the characters and the setting that are very unexpected. So much so, that I’ll not spoil the story by revealing them here. I’d encourage you to read it for yourself, if you haven’t already. Gaiman’s work is both compelling and creepy, with a heroine you just must root for.
Just a surprising, though nowhere near as creepy, is The Princess in Black. Written by Shannon Hale and Deal Hale, and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, this is not your typical princess book. Sure, it begins with Princess Magnolia having hot chocolate with a Duchess. It doesn’t take long, though, for the reader to discover that Princess Magnolia has an unexpected secret: she is also the monster-fighting Princess in Black. Along with her horse, Blacky, the Princess in Black jumps into action when a monster wanders into town.
One of the storylines that adds suspense to the tale is the question of whether anyone (such as the Duchess) will discover the Princess’s secret. This is a great way to keep the reader engaged in the story and add a bit of suspense. I should note, there are a number of books in the Princess in Black series. They’re all well worth the read for a great example of using the unexpected to make a story strong.
Well, that all for this week. Happy writing, and have a magical month!
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature a surprise reprise from over nine years of archives.