Monday, September 9, 2013

Character + Plot = Pinned

Congratulations to Jeannie Smith who won Deanna Klingel's book, "Cracks in the Ice."

Writers have ongoing debates as to which is better, a character-driven story or one that is plot-driven. Obviously, both well developed characters and engaging plots are vital for a successful novel. As Rebecca Petruck said in a recent post, "Character and plot are Siamese twins. We must have plot to navigate so that we can experience how it would feel, but we only care about plot in how it reveals a character’s experience and feelings (her reactions)." 

I've been working on my two protagonists' character arcs for Half- Truthsdeepening my knowledge of who they are, and asking them each about what they want and why (yes, novelists do "talk" to their characters!).  In the process, I am discovering just how much character influences plot and visa versa.

So, when I read (or listen) to a book, I am trying to figure out how the author has brought her characters to life and what their journey--or character arcs--are. 

Enter the latest book I have listened to:  Pinned by Sharon Flake. I thought as an exercise for me and to give you a taste of this excellent young adult book, I'd give a brief description of the characters and their arcs. But don't worry, I'll try hard not to include any spoilers. 

Adonis Miller is a brilliant 9th-grader who manages the school's wrestling team, tutors fellow students, and volunteers at the library--all from his wheelchair. He values honesty, hard work, and has little patience for students who don't apply themselves in school. 

Autumn Knight is the only girl wrestler on the school team, reads below her grade level, hates math, dreams of opening a restaurant, and loves Adonis. She is attractive, friendly, and brutally honest. 

The book opens by showing each character's normal: Adonis is busy with school work and managing the wrestling team and is annoyed by Autumn who will not leave him alone. Although Adonis detests girls who aren't smart, Autumn plagues his dreams. Adonis wants to do well in high school so he will be admitted to an excellent college. 

Autumn lives to wrestle; she is good at it and knows it. She dismisses her academic struggles although in the background, her parents (who also have difficulty reading) are beginning to pressure her to bring up her grades. Autumn wants to excel at wrestling, get Adonis to like her, and wishes that her failing grades wouldn't matter. 

Told from alternating points-of-view, Flake shows how both Adonis and Autumn seek to obtain their goals and are frustrated either by themselves (Autumn's inability to focus on her work leads to poorer grades and removal from the wrestling  team) or by each other (Adonis wants not to like/be seen with a girl like Autumn but is drawn to her). 

Although Adonis feels as if he is perfectly adjusted to the fact that he was born without legs, memories of a time when he was totally helpless plague him. Autumn matter-of-factly accepts his disability and texts him,

"Disabled is me not being able to read. And you with out legs. So (u+me) = perfect. Right?"

Her honest observations about how they are both "stuck" in their predicaments helps Adonis get out of his friendless world. Flake avoids the simple solution of Adonis becoming Autumn's tutor, but allows Autumn to figure out how (and why) she will learn how to read.  

Read this book to enjoy a powerful novel with wonderful, authentic voices. And after you do, you'll understand the title of this blog.


Rosi said...

This sounds like a really good exercise and a terrific book with which to do the exercise. Thanks for an interesting post. I will be checking out Pinned soon.

Carol Baldwin said...

you'll love it, Rosi!

Linda A. said...

What a great way to view a friendship. Thanks for sharing another title I'd love to read.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Linda. I love passing along good titles to my friends!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

This certainly sounds like an interesting book with an original premise. Enjoyed your presentation of it as an exercise.

Beth Hull said...

Sounds like a great book, and a good reminder to read like a writer--something I often forget to do if I'm caught up in the story.

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