Late to the Game

Sunburn cover

I admit, I’m coming late to the Laura Lippman game. I completely missed her Tess Monaghan series and am only now catching up to this wonderful writer. It is October 2019. There’s no excuse for the oversight, but I’m making up for lost time. It’s not as if I don’t know her.

 

I actually met Laura Lippman at Writers in Paradise writers workshop sponsored by Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. Maybe didn’t “meet” her so much as hear her talk on plotting that she gave to those of us in attendance. I’d won a scholarship and took a class with Lori Roy. But the event has craft talks too for everyone to attend, and that’s where I saw Lippman.

 

She spoke of her color-coordinated card plotting system, and how she lays them out on the ground and shifts them around when she gets stuck. She said a bunch of other marvelous stuff, and I’m sure I have a notebook full of dutifully jotted notes somewhere. What I remember without having to find that notebook is not only the rock-solid information she clearly set out a room full of novice writers, but her kindness. She was/is a big-deal writer and we were/are not, but she treated us like equals, like we wrestled with plot on her level and she was there to guide us on our journeys toward writing like her, as if that was not a totally absurd assumption.

 

I’ve recently finished her latest book, Sunburn. (She’s so prolific that “latest” part might change before I get this posted, but it’s her most recent book as of today.) What I loved was her ability to deeply immerse us in her character, and how we hear the thoughts of Polly Costello as if we have a seat inside her head. There’s no distance.

 

That struck a particular chord with me when I met with my writer’s group that week. In it, one woman said that I was having the characters “think about thinking” and how that was distancing. I’m new to third-person POV, so what she exactly meant might have stumped me if I hadn’t happened to be reading Sunburn.

 

I went back that evening and read the first few chapters again, and I saw how Lippman did not have Polly think about thinking; she just thought. And it was immediate, and there was no distance, and I did go back to work the next day following Lippman’s lead she sets forth so clearly in that book, like a Master Class, like that lecture she gave at Eckerd years ago.

 

To finalize things, I will say that I enjoyed the book, but I did think it lagged. Toward the middle of the third act, things started to drag, and the characters seemed to spend a lot of time thinking about what they were doing with nothing big happening on the screen. As it turns out, things were going on, but Lippman hides them from us so that the end will be a surprise. That’s fine. The end wraps up very quickly, and in the epilogue we see evidence of what we missed. It’s fine; that technique creates tension, it make readers tie events together in their head. But, it’s not my favorite. I’m currently reading Lady in the Lake and the shifting POVs in there are very interesting. Perhaps I’ll have more to say about that before too long.

Late to the Game

 

 

I admit, I’m coming late to the Laura Lippman game. I completely missed her Tess Monaghan series and am only now catching up to this wonderful writer. It is October 2019. There’s no excuse for the oversight, but I’m making up for lost time. It’s not as if I don’t know her.

 

I actually met Laura Lippman at Writers in Paradise writers workshop sponsored by Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. Maybe didn’t “meet” her so much as hear her talk on plotting that she gave to those of us in attendance. I’d won a scholarship and took a class with Lori Roy. But the event has craft talks too for everyone to attend, and that’s where I saw Lippman.

 

She spoke of her color-coordinated card plotting system, and how she lays them out on the ground and shifts them around when she gets stuck. She said a bunch of other marvelous stuff, and I’m sure I have a notebook full of dutifully jotted notes somewhere. What I remember without having to find that notebook is not only the rock-solid information she clearly set out a room full of novice writers, but her kindness. She was/is a big-deal writer and we were/are not, but she treated us like equals, like we wrestled with plot on her level and she was there to guide us on our journeys toward writing like her, as if that was not a totally absurd assumption.

 

I’ve recently finished her latest book, Sunburn. (She’s so prolific that “latest” part might change before I get this posted, but it’s her most recent book as of today.) What I loved was her ability to deeply immerse us in her character, and how we hear the thoughts of Polly Costello as if we have a seat inside her head. There’s no distance.

 

That struck a particular chord with me when I met with my writer’s group that week. In it, one woman said that I was having the characters “think about thinking” and how that was distancing. I’m new to third-person POV, so what she exactly meant might have stumped me if I hadn’t happened to be reading Sunburn.

 

I went back that evening and read the first few chapters again, and I saw how Lippman did not have Polly think about thinking; she just thought. And it was immediate, and there was no distance, and I did go back to work the next day following Lippman’s lead she sets forth so clearly in that book, like a Master Class, like that lecture she gave at Eckerd years ago.

 

To finalize things, I will say that I enjoyed the book, but I did think it lagged. Toward the middle of the third act, things started to drag, and the characters seemed to spend a lot of time thinking about what they were doing with nothing big happening on the screen. As it turns out, things were going on, but Lippman hides them from us so that the end will be a surprise. That’s fine. The end wraps up very quickly, and in the epilogue we see evidence of what we missed. It’s fine; that technique creates tension, it make readers tie events together in their head. But, it’s not my favorite. I’m currently reading Lady in the Lake and the shifting POVs in there are very interesting. Perhaps I’ll have more to say about that before too long.

I admit, I’m coming late to the Laura Lippman game. I completely missed her Tess Monaghan series and am only now catching up to this wonderful writer. It is October 2019. There’s no excuse for the oversight, but I’m making up for lost time. It’s not as if I don’t know her.

I actually met Laura Lippman at Writers in Paradise writers workshop sponsored by Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. Maybe didn’t “meet” her so much as hear her talk on plotting that she gave to those of us in attendance. I’d won a scholarship and took a class with Lori Roy. But the event has craft talks too for everyone to attend, and that’s where I saw Lippman.

She spoke of her color-coordinated card plotting system, and how she lays them out on the ground and shifts them around when she gets stuck. She said a bunch of other marvelous stuff, and I’m sure I have a notebook full of dutifully jotted notes somewhere. What I remember without having to find that notebook is not only the rock-solid information she clearly set out a room full of novice writers, but her kindness. She was/is a big-deal writer and we were/are not, but she treated us like equals, like we wrestled with plot on her level and she was there to guide us on our journeys toward writing like her, as if that was not a totally absurd assumption.

I’ve recently finished her latest book, Sunburn. (She’s so prolific that “latest” part might change before I get this posted, but it’s her most recent book as of today.) What I loved was her ability to deeply immerse us in her character, and how we hear the thoughts of Polly Costello as if we have a seat inside her head. There’s no distance.

That struck a particular chord with me when I met with my writer’s group that week. In it, one woman said that I was having the characters “think about thinking” and how that was distancing. I’m new to third-person POV, so what she exactly meant might have stumped me if I hadn’t happened to be reading Sunburn.

I went back that evening and read the first few chapters again, and I saw how Lippman did not have Polly think about thinking; she just thought. And it was immediate, and there was no distance, and I did go back to work the next day following Lippman’s lead she sets forth so clearly in that book, like a Master Class, like that lecture she gave at Eckerd years ago.

Finally, I will say that I enjoyed the book, but I did think it lagged. Toward the middle of the third act, the characters seemed to spend more time thinking about what they were doing than anything active happening on the screen. As it turns out, things were going on, but Lippman hides them from us so that the end will be a surprise. That’s fine. The end wraps up very quickly, and in the epilogue we see evidence of what we missed. It’s fine; that technique creates tension, it make readers tie events together in their head. But, it’s not my favorite. I’m currently reading Lady in the Lake and the shifting POVs in there are very interesting. Perhaps I’ll have more to say about that before too long.

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