Monday, March 24, 2014

Reads for Writers: A Day in J D Robb's Latest, Concealed in Death, Provides a Masterclass


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 within their books.

        Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don't generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice, and/or creativity.


        How many pages could you fill describing only one day for a novel? And keep readers not just interested, but engrossed? JD Robb surpassed any guess I would have made in her latest book, Concealed in Death.
        First, the parameters of a day need to be set: From morning until bedtime or 24 hours?
From mid-morning when the scene of the murders was first discovered until bedtime, the action filled 134 pages. Recounting the entire 24 hours, over 150.
To be clear, I did not take notice of the page count while reading this book. The investigation was moving too quickly. This is a bestselling page-turner after all. But once I finished and realized the entire novel took place in three and a half days, I went back to look at this master storyteller's timeline.
The second bedtime happened on page 248. The second 24 hours ended about page 289—although a case could be made that they ended on page 304 as we are never given exact times.
Bedtime number three occurred on page 366. And the novel ends at dinner time the next day on page 402.
Making this timeline work takes real craftsmanship. Dialogue is a given in a novel, but what keeps readers engaged in this series is attention to details—murder is a messy business—and the constant action: not only visiting crime scenes and the police station as well as tracking down leads, but also seeing the city—lights, pickpockets, car accidents and all—while characters are walking, driving or traveling on public transport. Even when in her office, lead character New York City Homicide Lieutenant Eve Dallas is setting up the murder board, working on and/or slapping her computer, or replaying the crimes in her mind searching for clues.
The author always takes time to ground her work in reality. Her main characters have delicious meals described in detail as well as have sex, sleep, dream, shower, and dress. The plot still moves along as Dallas is usually, but not always discussing the latest case with her billionaire husband, Roarke, at these times.
Because the action is non-stop, I tend to read JD Robb's books in one sitting. Dallas always moves fast when it comes to tracking down killers. She knows her job. This is the 38th novel in JD Robb's In Death series after all. 
Dallas has a supporting cast that makes this possible including her aforementioned husband, her partner, Delia Peabody, the detectives working in her division and other professionals from medical examiners to computer geeks.
For an overview of the In Death series, see my post "Reads for Writers: JD Robb/Nora Roberts" dated October 22, 2012. And yes, I only recommend reading the books in order so you can see the growth in the characters and their relationships which makes this whole series a masterclass. WARNING: Please note these books contain violence and adult themes.
Time flies in JD Robb's books, but in a grounded, high action, well written way.
Can you create a day that takes you 134 to 150 pages to describe?

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