Thursday, March 21, 2013

Asked a Half-Blood for Help

Lessons in writing through reading fiction

I have completed writing, rewriting and editing my upper middle grade novel to the point it's worthy of a literary agent's consideration. While I wait, I'm plotting out book two. How does the writer make a series work for the reader?

Time to hit the books.
I decided to read a series my boys enjoyed, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. However my boys did not like Book 2 as much. I read Book 1 in a weekend, but Book 2 took me a bit longer.

For those who have not read Rick Riordan's Olympian series, here is a description of the first two books.
After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There's little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.

In this second adventure, Percy is anticipating the end of seventh grade and a summer at Camp Half-Blood with kids who are the offspring of Greek gods and mortals. He dreams that his pal Grover, a satyr, is in danger. After monsters attack in his school gym class, Percy and Tyson, a homeless kid, are picked up by Annabeth, a half-blood friend, and rushed to the camp, which is under attack. The tree that guards the camp is dying, and Chiron, the activity director, has been dismissed. Another dream reveals that Grover, whose peril is increasing, is on the same island as the legendary Golden Fleece, which may be the cure for the troubled camp. Encouraged by Hermes, Percy and his pals set off to the Sea of Monsters, where they encounter legendary dangers.

Why wasn't Book 2 a favorite in our family? 
• Balance of likeable versus non-likeable characters
Chiron, a caring and intelligent leader, was replaced by a very unlikeable creature from the underworld. The replacement hated Percy and his friends. 
Percy's loving mom was sidelined as well. 

Commit to go
Percy was unsure about going on the quest. Hermes the Messenger God had to encourage Percy and his friends to set sail. Thus my young readers were hesitant about going on the journey too.

• More telling, less showing
It's tricky to bring new readers into the series without boring ones who read Book one. Percy tells us who his fellow characters are, what happened before and acts as narrator in his present adventure. The reader is not drawn into the action.

 I look forward to learning more from reading the rest of Rick Riordan's Olympian series. 

What writing lessons have you learned through reading?

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