Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Indie Book of the Month: May 2017

Limiting Myself

A case of literary snobbery almost made me pass on this book. Though I blog all the time about how it's sometimes okay to ignore the rules and write the story you want to write, still when I evaluate other people's work, I tend to evaluate according to those very same rules. And I almost missed out on reading this book because of it.

In my attempts to perfect my own craft, one of the things I've been studying rigorously is Deep POV. I've read countless books and articles on the topic, and have spent my writing time asking myself, "Am I telling the audience things the POV character wouldn't know?" Or, "Am I far enough into my character's head to make the reader feel the emotions the same way the character does?" I've ruthlessly edited my own work in a desperate attempt to deepen the POV.

The book I chose for this month's feature employs a rather shallow POV. Even an omniscient POV in some places. When I first read the free sample on Amazon, I interpreted this shallow POV as one of those dreaded "newbie errors" we all hear so much about. And, as I said before, I almost passed on the book. But then my deadline for announcing my selection loomed on the horizon, and I decided to give this book one more chance. And I'm glad I did.

The Book:


The Seer of Possibilities by Thomas O. Once I really started reading it, what had at first come across as a newbie mistake suddenly appeared instead to be a deliberate choice. After all, is there anything fundamentally wrong with using an omniscient POV? Just because it's not in style at the moment doesn't make it bad. In fact, it lends a sort of old-timey feel to the writing, because shallow and omniscient points of view were once very common. Many of what we call the classics were written in this way, so how can we condemn it? And really, once I really started to get interested in the stories, the writing style seemed to add to the creepy atmosphere.

This book is a collection of short stories. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed each one. Reading this book took me right back to my childhood when I used to go to the library in search of ghost story anthologies. The stories in this book aren't ghost stories, but they have the same feel to them as those stories I read as a kid. And, in reading them, I felt all the same emotions I felt when I was a child peaking around the corner into the realm of the spooky.

Each story in this collection begins with some mundane occurrence. Then little hints are dropped here and there that something sinister might be happening, but the reader doesn't know what, exactly, is happening until the end. And each story culminates in a creepy, Flannery O'Connor-style twist.

A twist ending is not an easy thing to pull off. Those kinds of stories have their own set of rules. The twist can't be too predictable. If the reader can see it coming from a mile away, he's going to walk away disappointed. But just the same, the twist has to follow logically on what has come before so that when you look back over the story you think to yourself, "Of course!" If the author throws some new twist in right at the end without at least a little foreshadowing, the reader is left thinking, "Um...what was that supposed to be?" Thomas O. pulls off a twist ending not once but six times in this book. And each one was surprising yet believable. In fact, getting to the final twist in the first story is what made me want to continue on and finish the book. I kept reading with the hope that all the stories would have equally satisfying endings. I was not disappointed.

If you like creepy stories, please do yourself a favor and buy this book. You will be glad you did. The book can be found on Amazon.



4 comments:

  1. Thank you for the review! I'm glad you gave it a chance. You have some terrific insights into how POV is used. And you're right, I do have a bit of an old-timey style. Deep POV is tricky to pull off, but often worth it if the writer is successful. It's something I may try to add to my repertoire, if only to keep things fresh.

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    1. You're very welcome! The biggest thing I've learned since I've started reviewing indie books is that if I take a chance on something that at first glance looks like it's not for me, I'm likely to be surprised in a good way. Your book did that for me. And I meant what I said about being impressed by the endings. Twists like that are not easy to do, so you have my admiration for the skill with which you pulled them off.

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  2. Very interesting. I was also accused by a book blog reviewer of having an "old-fashioned" style for my short stories, though I didn't use omniscient POV. The reviewer thought the narratives sounded out of the 1950's. Obviously, he wasn't looking to complement me, but I believe many readers still appreciate an "old-fashioned" narrative. I don't think every writing style has to be filled with selfies, iPhones, and Google :-).

    Tam

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    1. I think I read that review of your book. What it sounded like to me was that your book just didn't suit the reviewers taste, as opposed to him thinking it was an inferior book. I've learned that good writing came come in many styles, so it's not always wise to dismiss a work outright just because you don't agree with some of the author's choices. By the way, your book is one I'm still interested in reading one day. Just from the things you've said about it make me think I may enjoy it.

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