FRAGMENTS by Dan Wells, is the book I'd like to concentrate on in this post. First, I have to admit that my 'bad review' in the post before (the book with all the guns) was the first book in this series. And although I don't retract my comments, I'm obviously here to support this author. He did a much better job in the second book, though not perfect, and I gave him another chance. Obviously the story line was just good enough that I decided to buy the second book.
Without giving away too much, the thing I think Dan Wells did well in this series was to create a believable post-apocalyptic world. There was a great, and I might add obvious, purpose to the story. The main characters were all very well thought out. There were rules to this new world that worked and were clear. And the theme ended up being excellent. (When I say theme, I mean a sort of moral to the story).
That being said, I'm going to try to sandwich in the things that I think needed to be worked on, so that I, as well as anyone reading this post, can learn from Dan's mistakes. As much as I liked this book, I didn't love it. A lot of what went on could have possibly been done away with. One thing we're taught as authors is to make sure your settings vary. You don't want to have the same thing popping up all the time. Now, in this case I understand that the whole world is in shambles. Fine. That's okay. The thing we need to consider is, how can I make the same thing interesting?
First: DON'T put the exact same descriptions in all the time. This gets old. Find new things to focus in on. Maybe make a list of characteristics and then only share some at one time and then some another.
Second: You still need to be creative enough to figure out how to change things up. Be in different circumstances, ie. don't have the whole book be about shooting people down constantly. We know they're at war, let's have some variation OF that war.
This isn't to say that there wasn't. I am being hyper-critical here. It could have been a little more varying.
The next thing I learned from this (I do this in my own writing to a degree. Now I won't) is don't continue to ask obvious questions all the time. Throughout these two books, the author had the main character asking herself questions all the time. I mean, ALL THE TIME. Every other page or so there would be about five lines devoted to--sometime very obvious--questions. Like, What are they going to do? type of questions. Is it this? Or will it be that? Do they mean this? Or is it something altogether different blah blah blah?
This is something I will be scouring my work of.
Ask one or two questions tops, and not every few pages. Let the reader as these questions naturally. You raise questions best through SHOWING, not telling. If you are doing your job as an author, the reader will ask these questions automatically.
One more thing, and then I will go back to praising the rest of the book =). As writers we need to be very careful to make sure each of our characters are independent in thinking from each other. Dan did a great job with his main set of characters, but the lesser (but still important players) often had fits of saying the exact same things the main characters would, even when they hadn't been around each other to indoctrinate them with their ideas. Or even if they had, there should be a different colored lens we can look through for these characters, to color what they see with their own personality. For example, a sixty year old man isn't going to start talking like a seventeen year old boy. (Unless he's making fun of him.) Right? It strips away his believability and breaks the reader from the powerful trance you've induced.
I read another series as a teen where the author did a more extreme job of this exact thing. EVERY SINGLE character had the same personality. Maybe I've mentioned this before. It is worth mentioning again. DON'T re-use the same personality for every person. I don't care if you think their sense of humor is hilarious. I don't care of they are all noble and brave. Or popular, or whatnot. They shouldn't all be the same. There should be personality quirks.
And this is where I'll praise Dan again. As I said, his MAIN characters were awesome. Each one could be easily distinguished from one another just by their reactions to events. And they weren't small differences either. Each person, could in their own right, be a scene antagonist. They were friends, but they argued, or got in one another's way. This is good writing.
I hope I'm not giving anything away with this next item, but I have to talk about the theme of the story. As I see it. You pretty much get a hint of this throughout the first book, but it becomes very clear in the second. There should always be something you're trying to teach the reader, something to get them thinking. But in a non-judgmental, helpful way. Dan succeeded in doing this very eloquently in this book. There were obvious sides, obvious notions of people being 'racist' in this book. Although not in a way that we, in real life, have thought of before. But the bigger issue was the war. And killing. When there is a greater good at stake, are we willing to do what it takes to get there, and how far is too far? Are we going so far that we lose our humanity along the way?
Dan looked at things equally from both sides and his main character wants to find that medium where everyone can be happy. In fact, she's willing to do, in the end, what it takes to do the right thing by all parties. This is a great debate that gets you thinking. Giving both sides equal support for their causes, but in the end there is a clear choice. The right one. There's also the realization that we as people are afraid of what we don't understand. That's true of everyone. These are issues, when it comes down to it, that we can all relate to. And I think if you can do that with your story, really connect to real issues that people understand, then you've created a great story.
Well done! Now I have to wait for the next book.
What are your thoughts. Have you read this series? Were there things you loved about it that I didn't cover?
Also, big shockers in there. I love the turn of events. Every story should surprise you.
Anyway, I could go on, but that's what the comments section is for.