Sunday, January 22, 2012

Writing Simply

I once believed that life was a gift. I thought whatever I wanted I would someday possess. Is that greed, or only youth? 

Green Angel is one of my favorite books. You probably haven't heard of it. I bought it at my school's book fair in 6th or 7th grade, read it over the course of 4 hours, and still count it right up there with Dragonlance and Drizzt. I have a review of it over here in my webzine, if you're interested in a review, but for now, let's just go over what this thing actually is. 

Green Angel is a pretty short novel aimed at the roughly 13-year-old range. It takes place in an unspecified location in an unspecified time period with characters with really vague names. The main character is called Green, and she's practically a plant empath. She's good with gardening to the point that it's a borderline magic power. The plot follows her from a first-person view as she recovers from losing her family in some sort of disaster, also very vaguely described.

What makes the book so fantastic is the way it's all put together. Absolutely everything about the book gives it a sort of dream-like, surreal atmosphere. When dialogue is spoken, it's italicized rather than put in quotes. It sort of makes you wonder if anyone is really speaking at all, or if it's all imagined in some kind of dream. Everything has a dark, poetic simplicity to it, and I think it's beautiful. It's full of things that hit me really hard just because of how simply they were put. No dramatic death scenes. No epic battles. Just simplicity at its finest. 

It's a kind of writing that's impossible to emulate by trying. It has to naturally flow, or you're going to break that simplicity. I've read through a lot of reviews of Green Angel, and it seems that the style is either loved or hated. It's too different to be somewhere in between. You can either appreciate the magical surrealism of it, or think it's the dumbest thing ever and go for something more realistic. Personally, I think it's one of the best ways to write a story, and whenever I find something similar, I love it.

I had similar feelings towards I Am Legend, though to a lesser extent. Some lines are so hugely important, and yet they're also super simple and blunt. There's nothing to say other than the simple truth. I think those lines can sometimes make more of an impact than several paragraphs explaining a heroic death.

Like everything in writing (and everything, really), there are times and places for everything. Simplicity doesn't always work. Still, I think Green Angel really did it right.

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