Saturday, August 8, 2009

Good Book -vs- A Great Book

A few years back on a vacation to Alaska, I became fascinated (obsessed really) with Matryoshka (nesting) dolls. I loved not knowing how many little wooden dolls I would find hidden inside. It became my quest to find the one around 6" tall that had the most in it.

I searched in every store we visited. There was no way to tell from the outside of the doll, how many were on the inside. So I opened and opened and opened--each time with great anticipation. Each time being a little disappointed when it stopped at five. Then I had to put it back together and try again.

I almost became resigned to the fact that five was as far as any of them would go, but another one caught my eye. It was black with a prince on a white horse painted on it. It reminded me of a fairy tale. I took a deep breath and opened the first one, then the second, all the way to number five.

I suppressed the urge to jump up and scream when I realized I could keep going. I opened the next until I came to number ten which was about the size of a pencil tip. I yelled to my husband to come and look. I was thrilled. My quest was complete. I went over to the counter and bought it right away.
The other day I was in my living room after reading a disappointing book by a best-selling author. I looked over at my two Matryoshka dolls on the shelf (one was a gift) and realized the similarities between my nesting doll quest and the search for a good book.

I like my doll that only has five, but it is not my favorite. My favorite is the one with ten in it. I like this one best because it goes deeper. Someone took the time to paint the tiny, unique details on each one and go as far as they could with this set.

My favorite books are the same way. The author has taken the time to create a plot that goes deep and gets to the core of the story. There is depth in the characters and I become entrenched in the story.

Reading a great book conjures up the same feelings I had when I found my perfect nesting doll. The anticipation built as I revealed each new doll. The same thing happens with a good book. The tension builds until it seems like it can't go any more, then a really good author keeps going with one more little "doll" until finally you get to the end, the last "doll." There is a feeling of great satisfaction as the reader and an urge to track down the author and give him/her a big hug and say thank you.

As you go back and reread/rework your own novel, short story or children's book, think about this, does your story stop at five dolls or does it go into more depth with ten. A five doll story can be nice-but a ten doll story is amazing. What kind of story do you want to write?

My quest continues for more ten doll Matryoshka dolls...and for more ten doll books.


Lost Wanderer said...

What a fabulous comparison! I really like those dolls too. Never seen anything like it. Are they Alaksan specialitiy?

Merc said...

I love the comparison, a great illustration of the point of depth and layers to a novel. :D

For me I think it depends--10 doll stories are awesome, but not all my ideas work that way and some are only intended to be entertaining 5 doll stories. I'm cool with this fact; and also trying to learn how to make 10 doll stories as well because some projects/ideas are ones I would WANT to be layered and deep and memorable.


Janie Blagg said...

That's a great analogy. Most of the time I don't spend enough time creating depth in my characters. Thanks for that reminder of how important it is.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent post, Kerrie. This is a more challenging task for writers today, I think, since shorter books are more in demand than longer ones. Can you imagine how some of the classics would have suffered if authors had been kept to 80,000 words? The rule, "don't use five words when one word will do," is more critical now than ever before.

Kaye said...

I used to have a set of those dolls when I was a kid. Haven't thought about them in years. There is something about the thrill of discovering something hidden within that is really cool, even when you know it is there. The comparison flows to good reading quite well. Sometimes when you are involved in a good novel, you know that there's more than it's telling you just below the surface and you just can't wait to turn the page and discover what it is. I hate it when a book feels like that, but the underlying surprise never surfaces. It leaves you with a feeling like there should have been more, like when there are only five dolls but you were hoping for a sixth.

Windy Lynn Harris said...

10 doll books, love it!

Kerrie said...

Thanks everyone for the great comments.
Lost Wanderer-The dolls are actually a Russian specialty, but there are strong Russian influences in the coastal towns of Alaska.

Pat, I hear what you are saying about having to write tight these days. Our attention spans are definitely shrinking.

Kaye, I agree about the thrill of discovering something hidden. I love finding hidden treasures.

Does anyone have an example of "10 Doll Book?"

PV Lundqvist said...

Excellent metaphor!

Melissa Taylor said...

Your point really clicked with the nesting dolls analogy. Great illustration. Thanks for this helpful post.

scottishrose45 said...

Well said. Really quite a perfect analogy. Thank you.

Nancy Frye-Swope said...

An inspirational analogy that really got me thinking this morning. Thank you very much.

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