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25 May 2011

Why I love Charles Dickens--Diving Into the Story World

Today's host: Jennifer Slattery

A few years ago someone mailed me a historical fiction about.... Well, I'm not sure what it was about because I never made it that far. I tried. Oh, my, did I try, but after page upon page of life-activities, my perseverance waned and I put the book aside. I learned the heroine wore her hair in ribbons, what she ate for breakfast, and numerous other details of her daily life. To the author, perhaps these events were significant. Maybe she had fond memories of getting her hair done and thought perhaps if she outlined these details, one movement at a time, she could invoke those same emotions in her reader. But sadly, her over-abundance of minute details, void of conflict, dulled my brain.

As I read over today's excerpts again--talking of spiritual warfare, castles, and jail sentences--I realized one of the things I long for in a story is the ability to visit a place other than my own. That doesn't mean I always gravitate toward time-traveling speculative fiction, but I don't want to relive the monotony of life either.

I love books that raise the stakes, introduce me to unique settings and unique characters, and allow my mind to drift from the day-to-day. One of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens. Upon first glance, I might conclude this is due to his "other-than" settings, but I believe it's more than that. His use of language creates images so vivid and emotive, he manages to turn a walk through the city into a unique experience. And yet, somehow he does this without losing the human element--the universal emotions we all share. So basically, he creates a world that is unique enough to grab my attention and propel me into the story, but he does it in such a way that I deeply connect with the characters.

This week's excerpts captured my attention with their unique settings and story-lines. The shuffle of monotony in a high school is intensified by the presence of evil. In excerpt B, I'm introduced to the magnificent Hearst Castle, and the world of antiquity. In both, I realize much more is at stake than castle restoration and chemistry class.

What about you? What are some things you look for in a story? Think back to a story you've particularly enjoyed. What was it about that novel that grabbed you? Is it a slightly quirky character or a castle shrouded by clouds and hidden behind a patch of trees?

(If you haven't already done so, read over both excerpts and cast your vote. And remember, there are numerous ways to be entered into our drawing for the book give-aways: vote, leave a comment on any of the articles posted over the next two weeks, fb share us, tweet us, or subscribe. Remember to shoot us an email letting us know you've shared, tweeted, or subscribed.)

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Gail Pallotta said... Wednesday, 25 May, 2011

An interesting post. Quirky characters and castles both sound as though they could lead to good narrative and dialogue.

Michelle Massaro said... Wednesday, 25 May, 2011

Yep, I agree! I want to be swept into someone else's world--even if they live "down the street" from me. I want to connect on that common human level we share and feel a character's struggles and joys.

April Gardner said... Wednesday, 25 May, 2011

Ah, Dickens. Did he ever know how to craft a story! There is one particular CF author who bores me to tears with the mundane. And yet, this author continues to hit the shelves. I just don't get it. Is a big name really THAT important? Apparently, it is.

jennifer said... Wednesday, 25 May, 2011

I don't know, April. Perhaps this author has a different audience?

And thanks, Amanda. Love thinking back on great novels. :-)

April Gardner said... Wednesday, 25 May, 2011

That's gotta be it, because working in the church library, I hear positive stuff about this author. Hey, different strokes for different folks, right?

Elaine Marie Cooper said... Thursday, 26 May, 2011

Jane Eyre will always be high on my list for sweeping me into the unique world of a young orphan girl in a beautiful house filled with a family that hates her. Talk about emotion! It swept me away as a young reader and the story still enthralls me. I can still visualize the window seat that she took refuge in. It is also a great story of foregiveness and redemption.

Jennifer said... Thursday, 26 May, 2011

I haven't read that, Elaine. Gonna hop on over to Anazon Kindle. Grin.

April Gardner said... Friday, 27 May, 2011

Isn't that the truth, Elaine? I read Jane Eyre as a teenager and was completely swept away. Talk about a hero who is unapologetically flawed. She did a great job of crafting that man to be rough and raw and completely lovable.

Elaine Marie Cooper said... Friday, 27 May, 2011

I love it! Charlotte Bronte was gifted in prose as well as in understanding human emotion. If you did not see the newest version on film, it should be coming out soon on DVD. It is the BEST of any video version I have seen. And Jen, I hope you enjoy the read as much as April and I did. :-)

Item Reviewed: Why I love Charles Dickens--Diving Into the Story World Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jennifer Slattery