My kids and I were eight chapters into reading To Kill A Mockingbird (so we can see the OSF production of it this spring), when sixth-grade Daney groaned, "What is this book about, anyway? There is no plot, there is no conflict."
She was right.
Harper Lee took her sweet Southern time aquainting her readers with Scout's tiny life in Maycomb County: her admiration for her older brother, Jem; her relationships with summer visitor, Dill; the ladyfolk; the ghostly man-child, Boo Radley; her father.
We get the hot, dry dust, the simple-minded, struggling townspeople.
But it's not until page 85 when conflict rips us from the slow days of Scout's scounting about, and throws us into the political upheaval that becomes the essence of the book.
"This is like Dracula," Dominic (13) agreed. (He's reading the 500-word tome for his spring book report.) "It didn't get good until page 300, when stuff started happening."
"What did Bram Stoker write in the 300 pages of 'nothing?'" I'd asked.
"Setting," Dominic said. "And setting. And setting. He took a long time setting it up."
So right now, my kids are seeped in two worlds: in 1930s Alabama, and 19th Century Transylvania. And though they're finally capitivated, it cost a lot of hearing them complain in getting them here.
We writers could never do this today. We could never "waste" a third of our stories on establishing setting. The present trend is to drop blood, or mystery, or vengance, or some kind of conflict right on page one.
What does that mean?
What are we missing out on?
FALL 2015 TOUR
1 year ago