Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pausing - side effect of artful storytelling

I’m reading If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary. It’s our May #blacklitchat book and you can join us for a discussion with Lorene Cary on May 22 at 7 p.m.

Reading it earlier today I had to stop during a scene and take a moment. It wasn’t a scene close to my own life, but the emotion of the scene and the skillful way that Cary showed what the characters were feeling made me pause. I had to turn away because I could empathize with the characters (Jewell and Rayne) and couldn’t help but think of how difficult that scene would be in real life.

I’ve had to pause or turn away from all of our #blacklitchat books in one or more scenes. There were multiple times with Davie Jones in 32 Candles, by Ernessa T. Carter (don’t even get me started!). And Zora in Substitute Me, by Lori Tharps – well, I might have talked back to the book at one point, but you can’t prove that.

Certainly, there were many difficult scenes in Aminatta Forna’s Memory of Love. The novel is set in post-war Sierra Leone and characters are haunted by personal and national tragedies.

Victor LaValle made me laugh with Big Machine, for sure. But I was a little bit scared to keep reading after the sewer scene. That might have been because I was reading it at bedtime.

Thinking about this today (during my pause from If Sons, Then Heirs) I decided that this is one of the elements of the best fiction. The writer has done the hard work and in many ways a skillful writer makes a story easy to read. The reader is drawn in, fully engaged and can see the story. And when you are there as a reader and struck by the emotional weight of a scene so much that you have to turn away, that’s artful storytelling.

I love these stories. Even when I have to pause, I know I’ll go right back in to the story. And hold on until the end.

Do good stories make you pause? Which ones? Post your favorite pause inducing stories/novels in the comments.

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