Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Boy! This Writing Thing is Murder...

Since the Thanksgiving holidays, I've been frequenting the local Goodwill store and picking up a few bargain books in hardcover and paperback, usually for around $.99 / book. Some of the great treasures that I've picked up are several of the genuinely excellent volumes in the James Patterson (et al) WOMEN'S MURDER CLUB series.

The set up is four women in law enforcement - a cop, a medical examiner, a prosecutor and a crime reporter team up after work to exchange information and resources to solve crimes. I had only seen the television show on ABC when it aired, and hadn't read any of the books. At the price I was acquiring these used copies I now had no excuse.

I am so glad I did... for a variety of reasons.

I've read 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in the series and after (very) quickly reading them, I understood exactly why WMC made it to television. Like my friend Alex says, "TV pulses" and Patterson and his collaborators' style is built along the same structure.

Each WMC book is structured as a series of pulsing mini-chapters that allow for two things:

- a cliffhanger element
- a relentless pace that allows for easy reading

Patterson & Co. have 1 page, 2 page and even a 1/2 page chapter - each one having some sort of "cliffhanger" to it - a key piece of evidence, and emotional peak (or valley), a threat, a stage to set - something to make you want to turn the page and keep reading. I can finish one of these 400 + page books in a day and end up feeling invigorated and wanting more. It's an excellent writing technique either borrowed or developed parallel to television structure.

Another technique that Patterson uses in the WMC books is the clearly defined hero in the form of Inspector Lindsay Boxer (played excruciatingly well by Angie Harmon). Even though the title of the book series is Women's Murder Club we never forget Lindsay is the hero, the focus of the books. How does he do that?

Every chapter Lindsay is in is told from her 1st person point-of-view.
All of the other chapters are 3rd person.

Read a sample from the 1st book - 1ST TO DIE - here and you'll see what I'm saying.

So yes, Women's Murder Club pulses and crackles and pulls you to and fro as you follow Lindsay and her team in solving their cases and resolving their lives. They're thrilling, sexy and scary and a good example of how to construct a story to keep the reader moving along without letting them put the book down.

Too bad the series was canceled. You'll just have to enjoy the books.


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