Monday, November 11, 2013

Odette's Secrets, Plot & Structure, And a Giveaway!

I am taking an online writing class, Plot and Structure with Bethany Nuckolls, an instructor in the Center for Writing Excellence.  I am learning names for plot elements that I had barely considered--and some I didn't even know existed! As a student, I am encourage to find these elements in a book of my choice. In a mini-blog series about this class, I plan to share some of what I have learned by analyzing two novels. 

Stasis: This is the character's original state.

For Odette's Secrets, it is life in Paris in 1942 for a twelve-year-old Jewish girl:

“My name is Odette.
I live in Paris,
On a cobblestone square
With a splashing fountain
And a silent statue.
My hair is curly
Mama ties ribbons in it.
Papa reads to me and buys me toys.
I have everything I could wish for,
Except a cat.” (p.1)

Trigger:  Bethany explained that this is, "usually some calamity or opportunity that directly affects the protagonists and their fortunes, awakening them from their Stasis hibernation."

It's Saturday , so Mama and Papa take me to the cinema.
On the huge screen,
Soldiers march, 
Their legs and arms straight as sticks.
A funny looking man with a mustache
Shouts a speech.
His name is Hitler.”  (p. 1-2)

Objective Correlative  This is a new term to me. The Miriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as something that "symbolizes or objectifies a particular emotion and is used in creative writing to evoke a desired emotional response in the reader." In this book, Odette loses her beloved doll Charlotte, a gift from her godmother. When her mother replaces it with a new one, Odette thinks:

“Before long, a new Charlotte peeks out at me
from Mama’s knitting bag.
This Charlotte has a china face too,
And curly brown hair.
She looks the same as the real Charlotte,
Even though I know she’s not.” (p.12-13)

The doll is a marker to the reader about what lies ahead for Odette- she may become "not real" herself. 

Launch of the main problem of the book  Her father joins the army, German soldiers invade Paris, and Odette's life changes. 

“Hitler and his solders are called Nazis.
Papa can’t wait to fight them!” (p.20)

Odette’s Growth begins after her father leaves. Just as he is confident that the French army will return victorious, Odette has confidence that she and her mother will be safe in their small apartment in Paris. The building’s caretaker and godmother, Madame Marie, is Odette’s bastion of refuge: 

“My godmother is like the perfect moon.
Always round.
Always full.
Always there.” (p. 8)

Madame Marie disciplines Odette when she skips school one day and informs her that she “needs to clean up the mess in your heart." (p. 37) Although she doesn’t instruct Odette to confess to her mother that she played hooky, the message is clear--tell the truth. Later, Madame Marie lies to soldiers who come looking for Odette and her mother.  This second message cements in Odette’s brain: some secrets and lies are acceptable.  Odette grows as she learns she must keep her identity secret in order to stay alive. She is learning to navigate a new world. 

First Odette, and then her mother, move to the country where they take on a Catholic identity. Odette thinks she is doing this successfully until her world comes crashing down (Shock) when some village children attack her for being Jewish. Although she denies it and her mother successfully enlists the mayor’s “pretend” support, Odette fears that her true identity will be discovered.

“Mama gives a party to show the villagers
that we are still ready to be friends.
I pretend to have a good time.
I keep all my sadness and anger buried inside,
Like all my other secrets.
It’s safer that way.

I can’t stop being scared, though.
So scared, that one day I stop going to school.
So scared that I even stop talking.” (p. 146-7).

When Paris is liberated, Odette’s mother decides they must return home. Despite the troubles she endured, Odette hates to leave her country village.  She says goodbye to her favorite places, her cat Bijou, and then gives her friend, Simone a present:

“The morning Mama and I leave,
I give Charlotte to Simone,
To make sure she’ll look after Bijou.
I don’t trust Simone, not really.
I have never told her that I’m a Jew.
Mama and I agree about this.
We still keep it a secret here that we are Jewish…
a secret from everyone.” (p. 169)

Odette’s Critical Choice comes in two parts: first, she must turn her back on her Catholic identity and the safety of her country home; and second, she returns to Paris and resumes her Jewish identity. 

Before a ceremony when the ashes of French Jewish dead will be buried, Odette wonders where she belongs. At the cemetery, a woman comes forward and clings to her as if she was her own daughter. That night Odette concludes:

I don't need to hide anymore,
and I don't want to keep any more secrets.
Secrets stand in my way.
They stop me from knowing who I am.
I am a Jew.
I'm sure of it.
And I will always be one. (p. 205)

I trust you will find this book as powerful as I did.  Bloomsbury has generously provided a copy of Odette's Secrets to one fortunate blog reader.  Here is how you can win:

1. Leave me a comment. Make sure you leave your email address if you are new to my blog.

2. If you want to have your name entered twice share this post on your favorite social media site and either tag me or let me know in your comment. 

3. Become a new follower of my blog and let me know--I'll enter your name twice!

4. A winner will be chosen on Friday, November 15 and announced in next week's blog. 
If you don't win, you can read six chapters for free on the Odette's Secrets Facebook page as well as a Teacher's Guide. Or, of course you can order your own copy!

I hope you'll stop by next week when I analyze parts of Sarah Dessen's book, Whatever Happened to Goodbye. 


Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Sounds like you are adding to your wealth of knowledge about plotting! Thanks for posting and for throwing my name in the pot.

♡♥♬ Carolsue ♡♥♬ said...

Wow! This looks like a wonderful book! I see it has good reviews on Amazon also!
Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

♡♥♬ Carolsue ♡♥♬ said...

I shared on Facebook
Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for sharing, Carol, and for leaving a comment, LInda. You're both in!

Anonymous said...

I really, really hope I win! I'll even share with Joyce if I do. :) And I shared on my FB page!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

I have been wanting this book for ever so long! Will share on Facebook and Twitter.

I do like that instead of just offering a synopsis/review you actually are breaking some books down for us and relating them to the writing process. Great way to blog a book!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Joyce. Glad you're enjoying my writing assignments! :)

Rosi said...

Wonderful post with lots of good information and examples. Thanks for that and for a chance to win. I Tweeted your link. (

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Rosi. You're in twice!

Ann Eisenstein said...

Thank you for sharing all of the things you are learning about structure and plot! I am anxious to learn more and to read Odette's Secret.

Linda A. said...

I definitely want to read this one. The quoted sections had me wanting more! Thanks for the opportunity to enter the contest too.

Your course sounds super! So nice of you to share the experience with us. I learn so much at your blog.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Linda and Ann. Your names are in the pot!

Gail Hurlburt said...

I really would love to win this book. Thanks for giving the chance!

Gail Hurlburt

Carol Baldwin said...

You're in, Gail!

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