Monday, October 22, 2012

Reads for Writers: J D Robb / Nora Roberts

From Kate's Writing Crate...

          As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide Masterclasses for me within their books.
          Masterclasses take place when performance artists or musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don't generally have this option, but I have found some books provide Masterclasses for characters, dialogue, backstories, plots, settings, and/or voice.

          Nora Roberts as JD Robb provides a Masterclass in writing a series where the two leads, Eve and Roarke, aren't only memorable as a tough, attractive homicide lieutenant and a gorgeous, brilliant, and occasionally ruthless billionaire, but also for their backstories which aren't even completely revealed through the 35th book. Yes there are 35 books in the In Death series, plus a few novellas, and it is still going strong.

          The plotting is well done. In each book, Eve and Roarke, along with co-workers, friends, and relatives, track down criminals and murderers.

          The series works because the author also gave both leads very complicated, emotional, stark, scary, and overwhelming childhoods so there is plenty of conflict within and between them. This also influences how they do their jobs and deal with plot twists springing from their dark pasts. (PLEASE NOTE: These books contain adult situations, language, and graphic violence.)

          The author set this series about 50 years in the future with helpful droids, AutoChefs that provide delicious meals in both homes and cars, and some vehicles that can hover and fly to make getting to crime scenes and chasing criminals easier.

          In another twist, the main characters get married early on. The marriage is sometimes another layer of conflict as Eve and Roarke occasionally fight and feel the need for distance, but they also acknowledge the strength and security this bond gives them. Their dialogue takes on various undertones depending on their moods which anyone in a long-term relationship will recognize.

          The supporting cast has grown wonderfully as the series progressed. These characters provide a great deal of humor to books that have very dark sides. Murder isn't neat or easy in these books, but all the characters have distinct personalities, backstories, and lives outside the crimes which enhance the plots and keep readers waiting impatiently for the next installment.

          I am narrowing down Nora Roberts' vast successes to her Stars of Mithra series---Hidden Star, Captive Star, and Secret Star. This trilogy provides an excellent opportunity to learn about longer-term plotting as the conflict and action, which centers around one long weekend from the viewpoints of three best friends, has to last through all the books.

          As in most books, some characters are privy to information that others are not, but the information (in this case, two intertwined crimes) affects everyone because of the choices one of the best friends makes in the first book. Each of the two other best friends then takes action based on her personality traits and strengths which add depth to the series. The men they run into, run from, hire, are suspected by, and fall in love with also have strengths, knowledge, and backgrounds to add their own spins on the various situations they find themselves in.

          The dialogue flows well, is sometimes witty, and at times is filled with outrageous lies. As romances, happy endings are guaranteed, but twists in the plot keep readers guessing until the very end.

What authors provide Masterclasses for you?

1 comment:

  1. First, my writer hero from college days, F. Scott Fitzgerald. There is none better. I had the opportunity years ago while taking an Independent Study to travel to Princeton to view his papers first-hand. He revised by drawing a single line through the discarded version, thus providing a timeline of his progression. Awesome. It's something we will never experience with computer writing. A pity.

    James Lee Burke. His writing is violent and lyrical, a fascinating juxtaposition. Only someone with his considerable talent can pull it off. When he writes about New Orleans, you can see it, you can smell it, you can hear it.

    Michael Connelly. His relating of his characters' growth throughout the canon is, indeed, a master class.