What makes a novel compulsively readable? Author and professor Benjamin Percy set to find out when The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo became a sensation several years ago. He describes a process he used to analyze the book’s structure:
I began to color code the major problems the characters faced—blue, black, red, green, yellow, pink, purple—and to track page numbers. Larson would introduce a blue problem on page 25, return to it on 78, 169, 240, 381, and so on, each time ratcheting up the tension and complicating things further. Interspliced with the blue problems were red problems, pink problems, a kaleidoscope of trouble, ever-changing.
I have come to call these flaming chainsaws. Your success as a storyteller has to do with your ability to juggle them. Every time the flaming chainsaws pass through your hands, they gain speed, become more perilous, until at last they are extinguished.
Read all of what Benjamin has to say in his essay “The Dance of the Flaming Chainsaws,” over the new Glimmer Train bulletin.
At this month’s bulletin you’ll also find:
- Barbara Ganley: On Learning to Tell It True
- Benjamin Percy: The Dance of the Flaming Chainsaws
- Dawn Sewell McKeever: Write Like Hemingway
- Rachel Cantor: On Roman Architecture and Crayon-Colored Sleeping Togs