Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Lessons on Writing: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (Spoiler Alert!)

Assalamualaikum and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers,

It has been long since I post about a novel for one simple reason; I rarely have the time to read for leisure. But I needed to rest my mind so I skeptically bought Leaving Time. When I finish reading it however, I felt glad that I bought it. Not only that I felt refreshed, I also learned a few writing pointers.

But before I delve into those pointers, you need to know the story. Do read the synopsis here and let me fill in the ending later. Read the link, already? Alright then.

Jenna Metcalf and Virgil Stanhope are actually dead and living in the spirit world; of which they did not realise. Hence it's not that Alice didn't want to come back for Jenna but because she can't; she's alive and Jenna is not. Serenity Jones on the other hand, did not know that she was helping two spirits at first.

1. Introducing a riveting element of surprise

Photo credit: Christopher Michel

I find this to be extremely difficult to craft while Jodi Picoult exceeded expectations. Her trick was to make the life of Jenna and Virgil as mundane as possible by narrating the spirit world like our world, like the world of the living just so we do not suspect anything. For example, Jenna riding a bicycle, Jenna browsing the internet, Jenna living with her grandma, Virgil pretending to flirt with a lab attendant, and many others. To not make it look dull, the author added the element of mystery to the story. What I mean by mystery is, readers can't help but want to know why Alice left her daughter. From what Jenna describes her, surely Alice is in some kind of trouble. Maybe she's dead. Maybe she's in captive. So readers would just keep on reading and cling to their curiosity because they NEED to find out why. When the author dropped in casual (and some not so casual) hints throughout the story, the readers just read through them without giving much thought. Combining these three aspects: mundane, mystery, and casual hints will in the end have the awe effect on readers.    

2. Different ways to create awareness in story 

Photo credit: kikatani

More often than not, we write a story because we want to teach certain message(s), make the readers aware of certain issue(s), or provoke readers to think. As a result, we make these the main focus of our story. Take for instance the Hunger Games trilogy. We can easily see that the main message of the story is about political injustice (okay I didn't read the books but I watched the movie which is based on the books). We start to notice that this is happening in the real world.

Focusing back to Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult raised awareness on elephant exploitation and how we need to protect this majestic creature without making it the center stage. She does this by fashioning Alice as a scientist who studies elephant grief of which intertwines with Alice's own grief from losing her own daughter (of course the readers didn't realise it at first). Therefore, Jodi Picoult indirectly speaks to the readers' heart and conscience about the elephants, without making elephants the main focus.

3. The power of story that can reach minds and change hearts

Photo credit: ecooper99
I am an animal lover but now I have a special spot for elephants in my heart. All of this is because I read Leaving Time. So the fact that a book can do this to me becomes my motivation to work harder for my novelette and later writing projects. It made me realise more that writing is a gift from God and it should be used to impact the lives of HIS creatures on earth. Otherwise, we are just being ungrateful to HIM.

I also believe that bearing this in mind can help authors and bloggers to rise up to the grueling task of writing. The same can be said to those who dreams to be a writer. The possibility to change hearts can crush the wall of fear and lack of confidence that often surrounds a future writer.

I sincerely hope that you gain something from this week's post. I also hope that this post has touch or at least brush your lives. Until the next take care!