‘Cliff Notes’ for Eden’s Garden
Recently I read and reviewed Eden’s Garden by Juliet Greenwood. I chose this particular novel because it belongs to a genre of writing, romantic fiction, which I wish to study and am hoping to learn how to write in. As an examplar of this type of fiction Eden’s Garden is perfect. It offers a cracking good story full of mystery and intrigue, coupled with a very satisfying romantic tale, or rather two romantic stories, as Juliet masterfully manipulates and combines two plots which run concurrently throughout the novel, even to the extent of mirroring one another in different time settings. How did she do this?
According to Janet Burroway in her book Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft all stories require 3 elements if they are to succeed as story – conflict, crisis and resolution. Apparently only dramatic conflict is interesting to read. Stories based upon peace and harmony are boring, for nothing happens in such tales, they lack that ‘Turning Page Quality’ that makes the reader have to find out what happens next.
Juliet’s novel fulfils each of these requirements, setting out the conflict as early as the prologue, and then carrying the crisis through most of the book, reaching critical point approximately 2/3 of the way in, before finally easing into the resolution. More than anything, what really struck me about this novel was how well Juliet resolved all the various elements, tying up all ends into a cohesive and believable conclusion.
But it was the manner in which Juliet achieved her story telling aims which taught me the most about novel writing. In an attempt to understand her methods and approach I decided that the best thing to do was to make a very close reading of her novel. And since I was planning to review it as well as analyze it, I kept two sets of notes – those which would form the basis of my review, and another which would in effect be a minute and detailed account of each chapter, outlining the progression of the story, how it was set up in terms of scenes and whether each scene was developed through narrative or dialogue, or more usually, a combination of both.
I also kept a close eye on the names and rankings of each character, and discovered to my surprise that there were only a fairly small number of main characters, with a number of minor satellite characters who helped to move the plot along.
Janet Burroway has this to say about reading as writers:
“Ask yourself as you read: what is memorable, effective, moving? Reread, if possible, watching for the techniques that produced those reactions in you. Why did the author choose to begin at this point? Why did s/he make this choice of imagery, setting, ending? What gives this scene its tension; what makes me feel sympathetic? You can also learn from stories that don’t personally move you – how would you have handled the same material and what would have changed with that approach? Be greedy from your own viewpoint as an author: What, from this story, can I learn/imitate/steal?”
Initially I had hoped to offer a deeper analysis of this novel, sharing my notes on this blog. Unfortunately I do not see how I could do this without disclosing the story line of the novel, and this I cannot do for obvious reasons! Anyway I wouldn’t want to deprive you, dear reader, from the joy of reading, and even perhaps analyzing for yourself, this lovely atmospheric book full of wonderful characterization, beautiful settings, perfect plot, realistic dialogue and tender story. Suffice to say that I shall be hanging on to my own personal ‘Cliff Notes’ to Eden’s Garden, and look forward to reading it again some time soon!