Last Thursday night I went to hear an acquaintance, Susan Campbell, speak about her new book Dating Jesus: A Story About Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl. Susan's book, which I have not yet read, is an adult memoir. But as she was telling these very funny stories about her mother being called in to take her out of Sunday school class and going door-to-door as a twelve-year-old to ask people if they'd like to read the Bible with her, I thought, Hey, this could be a kids' book! A YA, anyway. She should reuse her material as kidlit! It could be hysterical!
Hysteria is very important in a book.
Another interesting observation about Susan's appearance: The crowd, and it was a nice sized one, was interested in content. They wanted to talk about religion, the subject of the book. I, however, wanted to talk about what you might call structure or format. I was looking for an opportunity (which never came) to ask if the author had considered using her material in fiction instead of nonfiction. At the very end of the hour, one person asked the ever popular "How long did it take you to write this book?" Otherwise, not a soul wanted to talk about anything but content.
One of the reasons I found this so interesting is that in reading print and blog reviews of books I've read it has appeared to me that I read differently from other people. A lot of readers are totally interested in content. What the story is about is of primary importance to them. I am at least as interested in how the story is told. And if writers really drop the ball with that, they've lost me.
I like to think that my concern with how a story is put together instead of the story, itself, is due to the fact that I'm a writer and putting a story together is my business. But I also wonder sometimes if it just means I'm superficial, sort of like someone who is only interested in clothes, rather than the person who is wearing them.
I think it's the writer in you. I also see structure, or I want to see structure, in everything as well. Take the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Everyone seems to be talking about how great it is, how interesting, etc. I can't seem to get past the contrived structure. Why did the writer/director put it together THAT way? Too convenient!!It's the way we see things.
That's too bad about Slumdug Millionaire. I was looking forward to seeing it. Not so much now.
I would have loved to hear Susan Campbell--love her! I would have been frustrated just as you were, though, with wanting to ask about the structure, process, writing of it. Thanks for the tip--I'll look up her book!
Scientists say that non-scientists ask them about their results, but other scientists (especially in related fields) want to know about their methods. It's the same thing.
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