Girls Write Out
Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Writing Lessons from The Help (By Kathryn Stockett)

Maybe you've seen The Help on the bookstore shelves--or on the New York Times bestseller's list, where it's been for weeks. I'd seen the book many times, knew it was very popular, yet three things kept me from buying it:

1. I found the cover boring. (No people?)
2. The plot sounded boring (Domestic maids?)
3. The setting is a time (1960s) and place (Jackson, Mississippi) of little interest to me.

Really, there was no reason for me to read the book, much less enjoy it, but after I downloaded the first chapter for free and it held my attention, I thought, what the heck.

I'm so glad I did. The story is long--464 pages--and I loved every one. Why, when I had all those reasons to dislike the book, couldn't I put it down? I learned so much from the story, but the writer's takeaway is this: It's all about the characters. Authentic, interesting, and unique characters will keep the reader reading. It's not that I didn't know that before. I just didn't KNOW it until I read a book that had everything else working against it (my opinion).

The characters' voices in The Help ring with authenticity and you know what? Days after finishing the story, I'm still thinking about Aibileen, Skeeter, and Minny. I can hardly believe they aren't real people, and I wish they were so I could invite them over for coffee and Debrands. Their stories moved me like I haven't been moved by fiction in a long time, and I know it's a book I'll revisit later, when I'm homesick for those characters.

What's the last novel you read that had memorable characters?

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Denise Hunter  
posted at 11:04 AM  
  Comments (6)
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At 12:47 PM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

I have got to read it. Your tastes and mine run pretty close!

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

I'd loan it to you, but it's on my Nook. :-(

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Barb said...

I had put that book on hold at the library (where I work) and by the time it came in I had no idea why I had put it on hold in the first place. Thankfully, I spoke with a co-worker about the book. She asked if she could read it after I was finished. I am so glad I read that book! I am not usually drawn to a book just because it is on the bestseller list. I'm thinking I now should check out those books a little closer.

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Jaclyn said...

I read that a few weeks ago and LOVED it! I couldn't put it down.

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

Francine Rivers newest release, Her Mother's Hope. I just read the sequel (not out yet) Her Daughter's Dream. The characters are unforgettable.

I read The Help and really liked it. But I got bored about 2/3 of the way through and jumped to the end. Goes to show you how subjective fiction is. :)

Another great book for characters is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I read it in Nov of 2008 and still think about the characters.

At 1:02 PM, Blogger Julie Carobini said...

The whole Mitford series. Father Tim is still real to me!


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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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