Behind the cut below are my notes on current fiction I'm reading, as mentioned here. Warning: these are rough notes, mainly for my own reference. They are not intended to be comprehensive. They are at least as much about my own current writing thoughts as they are about the fiction I'm reading, in that they reflect my current writing concerns and questions. For example, right now I'm especially interested in learning how to create tension, plot, and story that drive reader interest, and how to create intriguing, quirky, unforgettable characters.
Story: From Grimm's: The Frog King
What works: The tension in the unfulfilled obligation to the frog makes the reader read on to find how it is resolved.
The reader is led to like the princess: she is noted to enjoy playing with her ball, cf. Kelly Link's observation that readers like characters who like things.
What doesn't work: Frog to prince, which is not foreshadowed; Faithful Henry, who is not foreshadowed, and doesn't seem to have any relation to the rest of the tale.
Story: Cat and mouse in partnership
What works: tension set up between cat and mouse, because we know these two are enemies; tension because of cat's misdeed, and reader wants to know how it will be resolved. Humor in the cat's names for god-children that relate to his crime.
What doesn't work: the ending, because the bad cat doesn't suffer any consequences, and the victimized mouse does. Is the lesson: keep mouth shut in the face of injustice by those who have the power to harm you?
Story: Our Lady's Child:
What works: tension of the forbidden door; how will the sin of the girl and the anger of the Virgin be resolved? Trials of the girl in the wilderness and as Queen make the reader sympathetic towards her; tension of people suspecting her. Archetype: the wrongly accused innocent, here complicated that more deeply she is guilty. Ending is very similar to ending of the story of the 13 brothers.
What doesn't work: reader knows girl will open forbidden door; only thing unknown is consequences.
Story: Story of the youth who went forth to learn what fear was.
What works: The Candide-like innocence of the protag. The reader suspects he will learn to shudder eventually, but doesn't know exactly when or how, and this creates tension. The protag's resolution of challenges is both entertaining, and make us like him.
What doesn't work: the unluckiness of the items that the protag takes into the haunted castle, that turn out to be exactly what he needs. Overall, though, the story is quite successful, even though the reader has guessed its general shape from the beginning.
Story: The wolf and the seven little kids
What works: tension initially from whether the wolf will eat the kids; interest in how the wolf goes about deceiving them. Secondary post-eating story, tension in how the mom goat will solve the problem, and interest in the cleverness with which she does. Satisfaction with death of the evil wolf.
What doesn't work: not much. Perhaps the unluckiness of being able to cut open and sew up a wolf while it is still asleep.
Story: Faithful John
What works: Tension over whether the king will open the door, whether the king will win the bride, whether his escape with her will be successful, whether John can save him.
What doesn't work: I didn't especially like the king; he can't resist opening the door, he kidnaps the princess, and he kills his own children. These things seriously injure the story for me.
Story: the good bargain
What works: The Candide-like poor farmer, who succeeds out of luck rather than cleverness; the supposedly clever people getting punished for attempted fraud.
What doesn't work: luck rather than smarts wins; for modern readers, anti-Semitism is a problem.
Story: The strange musician
What works: what will happen to the three animals? The reader expects payback at some point
What doesn't work: the modern reader, at least, is disappointed when the entirely innocent animals get nothing, and the cruel musician never suffers for his unjust acts.
Story: The twelve brothers
What works: tension 1: will the twelve brothers be killed? tension 2: will they kill their sister? tension 3: will she be killed because of her silence? We like them because they are generally innocent; we like the youngest brother because he does the unexpected, and takes a risk to help his sister; we like the sister because she has innocently wronged her brothers, suffers to save them, and nearly dies to save them.
What doesn't work: The original villainous king is never brought to account.
Other notes: the device of the secret behind the door is used again, cf. Our Lady's Child and Faithful John
== gekijou == theater
|Right radical is 'sword/cut'. Top/outer part of left radical is 'tiger', bottom/inner part is 'pig'. This character seems originally to have meant, "attack intensely in the manner of a tiger attacking a pig. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Tiger attacks pig with sword -- what drama!'|