Monday, March 10, 2008

ODD MOM OUT Revisited

I finished Jane Porter's book tonight, and gads, I cried. I cried on page 404 when Luke said, "I haven't given up on you, not by a long shot."

Now, I'm not an easy cryer. I started thinking about the books that have made me cry. I must admit, Love Story did it, but that doesn't count because I was pregnant and uber-hormonal at the time. Sophie's Choice, Cold Mountain, Of Mice and Men, and Oh, Pioneers! brought me to tears. But a girly romance? Not in recent memory.

So, what is it about Odd Mom Out that engaged this jaded reader to such a degree? Why does this book work so well in the women's fiction genre? Let's get out the white board and do an analysis. It might help me as an agent and you as a writer of women's fiction:
  1. Porter is a slick, powerful and gifted writer. That is the first and most important reason this book works so well. In her hands you feel safe and you feel pampered. She won't let you down. Her language, word choice, tempo, plotting, and energy work together to weave a fine tale.
  2. The characters are believable. Marta, the odd mom, is plucky, brave, funny and passionate. And, as I mentioned in the previous post, her priorties are in the right place. Her daughter is number one. Marta and her daughter moved back to Seattle from NYC to help Marta's dad and her mother who has Alzheimer's. Marta loves her family and will not betray them. This character development is a vital part of women's fiction. If you don't identify with and like the protagonist, you are not going to like the book. [Readers' Note: I HATE Madame Bovary, but I LOVE that book. It's a classic, for heaven's sake. So what's up with that? Yes, dear reader, Madame Bovary is a first-class bi---. But that novel is not women's fiction. It's a literary masterpiece. We don't like Lady McBeth or Becky Sharpe much either. Again, they're not chick-lit, oops, sorry, women's fiction.]
  3. The plot moves rapidly, yet believably. We follow Marta and her daughter Eva from late summer through the new year. We meet their friends, their enemies. We attend meetings, endure Eva's struggle to be "popular," agonize with Marta's balancing act as mom and career woman. But we are caught up in all the action and we keep turning pages.
  4. The love interest is engaging, hot and lovely. (OK, Porter walks a fine line here, but I don't want to give away the plot.) Luke is a hottie and he is kind, gentle, smart and we can't wait for Marta to give in.
  5. Jane Porter wraps up loose ends, gives us a happy outcome, but doesn't whitewash some very real problems.

That's it. Can you write a book for women that keeps these things in mind? Can you make me cry?

1 comment:

Laura R said...

I'm not sure if my novel will make you cry, but like most authors who write from the heart, writing through the eyes of fictional characters took me on a journey that evoked some less-than-happy memories from my own past. I can only hope that potential readers will make the same connections.