Thursday, January 17, 2008

Learning From the Masters

I have a loyalty gene that I've finally kicked to the gutter. Back in November, I blogged a bit about eight little words that Dean Koontz used that made my big toes punch through my socks before they blew off.

I found Stephen King before I'd ever heard of Dean Koontz. Someone told me that Koontz was way too far out there and way too scary. I believed them. I stuck with King. Until he started to seem way too far out there and way too scary. But the only Koontz book I ever read was one he co-wrote with King and I'm thinking whatever it was didn't leave a big impression.

What's a girl to do?

I'm about half-way through my very first Dean Koontz in its entirety. False Memory seemed to start a bit slow (as opposed to the beginnings I'd read of The Darkest Evening of the Year, or The Husband) but when it grabbed me, there was no going back.

Dean Koontz is a master. Plain and simple. He's got all the goods and is the real deal.

What I've Learned in 300 Pages:

*** His setting is as much a character as his characters. FM is in a moody, stormy Southern California. It's big. It's bad. But is it as bad as the characters' are imagining? Or is it worse?

*** He spends time developing that character of scene and setting. He takes out his paintbrush, and because the character is so vivid, the brush strokes so firm, you are NOT taken out of the story. If anything, you're pulled deeper into the danged thing.

*** Every scene grounds the reader in the location almost immediately. You don't have to play catch-up to the words. You get to start where the next piece starts. (I've decided that's just having good manners.)

*** He's not afraid of backstory. And when I recognized it and began to prepare myself to do a bit of skimming, I still got caught up in his writing. The backstory he shared was packed with meaning and emotion. It truly filled out the characters and the circumstance. It was never an author's need to dump parts of their fabulously drawn, in-depth character sketches.

*** God is in the details. To me, almost to a distraction . . . until I read a bit further and than appreciate him for not making me feel stupid. Because by golly, I now know exactly what he means by lacrimal ducts and why the creepy character is infatuated with them.

*** He puts energy and description and detail into EVERY scene, building EVERY character to their maximum story viability. He doesn't walk away just letting the reader "get it" or not.

When I grow up, I want to write like Dean Koontz.

It's all better with friends.

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