Any "Discworld"/Terry Pratchett fans out there? That year was the year Guards! Guards! was first published.
Now, I may have lost some (or most) of you already, but even if you've never heard of this series, I hope to share some writing advice from my (so far) limited experience with this rather hilarious fantasy book.
A dear friend of mine introduced me to this book and finally convinced me that I really needed to give it a try. (This just goes to show you how powerful word-of-mouth can be, as I ended up buying it for my Kindle, along with another book in the series!) I'm a little over halfway through right now, and I think I'm hooked!
What is it about Guards! Guards! that can catch the attention of a girl who reads mostly Christian romance books?
Even when you're expecting the unexpected (it is fantasy, after all), the unexpected can still take you by surprise and make you laugh out loud. I love how this book is all about surprises! Secret-society meetings are normally depicted as serious affairs - but not so in Discworld! Ridiculously long passwords, "brothers" of the guild who just don't get it, and the saving power of takeaway food... Such a riot! Death is personified and given quite a presence; Carrot (named for his shape) is the newbie who might just bring the Night Watch back to its original purpose; and the Librarian is an orangutan who has to engage in a game of charades in order for anyone to understand him. Ah, yes - I'm not even done with the book, but I'm finding Discworld to be a new and intriguing place to visit!
Perhaps you're not writing fantasy - I'm not, either! And yet making the setting and the characters and the events unique, making them new and clever and unexpected, is something that can be applied to any genre. Quirks are endearing! And just looking at the name of this type of book - the novel - suggests that novelty is a good quality for it to have.
Oh, the humor in this book - the biting sarcasm and the cruel, but hilarious, commentary on humanity - is unrelenting! This book is rather broad in scope as a sort of satire on society. The tendency of modern society to focus on commerce...the impulse to protect one's own hide rather than be a hero...the instinct to blame others or to avoid the hard work and trouble of doing what's right... This all just goes to show how patient God is in dealing with us! Humans are quite a wishy-washy, self-centered lot...
Now, not all works are going to be satires - and the purpose of satires comes with its own issues and ramifications. But it's not just this style of humor that can be unrelenting. We can write with unrelenting emotion, unrelenting passion, and unrelenting heart. If you're going to write a book, why do it halfway?
That doesn't mean you should forgo comic relief if you're writing a drama, or disregard depth if you're writing a romantic comedy. In fact, Guards! Guards!, while being mostly very, very funny, eventually draws you in to the lives of the characters and makes you want to cheer for the men of the Night Watch - to see them succeed and move beyond their initial bumbling and cowardice. So being unrelenting doesn't mean you can't balance various elements. As I'm referring to it here, I want it to mean that you write with consistency and a deepening investment in the story. Don't go slack halfway through! Keep up the laughs or the thrills or the tears!
Until Next Time...
Well, I still have more to read, so we'll see if Guards! Guards! continues to be all that I like about it so far. And then I have Reaper Man (1991) waiting for me on my Kindle after that!
~ Have you tried a book recently that's from a genre you normally don't read? What made you want to try it - or what made you like/not like the book in the end? ~
Note: For more sensitive readers, Guards! Guards! is kind of crude, and it includes some swearing, violence, and drug/alcohol references. From what I've read so far I personally have not been too bothered by it, but I thought I'd mention it in case you were wondering about the content.
(Book image is from Terry Pratchett's website.)