Posted by: Kerry Gans | April 15, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours

Have you ever noticed how things in life all seem to happen at once? Like the day I had a pediatrician appointment for my daughter, then had a class, then faced a 5-hour drive to Virginia (in the rain)—until the skylights in my house started pouring rain on my head.

Everything at once. You all could tell your own version of the story. That’s life.

That’s also what makes compelling fiction. Piling one complication on top of another so fast that the protagonist can’t breathe—and raising the stakes each time.

You start small and build up: A guy and his wife buy a house. Then they find out she’s pregnant—with twins. She gets pregnancy complications and has to quit her job. Then he gets fired for a mistake someone else made. He starts doing something slightly illegal to make money. Then it gets more illegal. Then he gets in way over his head, only to find out that there’s about to be a terrorist attack sponsored by his employers. He snitches to the FBI but his identity is leaked. Now he’s on the run, but the bad guys grab his way-too-pregnant wife to lure him out. He finally gets to her, but there’s a bomb ticking down. They have time to run—but she goes into labor.

You get the idea.

I’m currently devouring the House of Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. I read the first one as a recommendation by our local librarian, and got hooked. The books are addictive, not just because of the strong voice of the protagonist Zoey and the well-drawn individuality of the other characters, but because Zoey’s life is a never-ending series of problems that simply get worse and worse. Every time she (and the reader) think that maybe she finally has things under control, that maybe things will start to go her way, that she can take a break and maybe even relax for a second, something else heaps on top of the burden she’s already carrying. Zoey’s problems start off normal—overbearing step-father and drunken boyfriend issues—and eventually (in Book 4) ramp up to saving the world.

There are nine books in the series (so far).

Zoey’s already trying to save the world in Book 4. What worse problems can she possibly deal with in the next 5 books?

I don’t know, but I’m sure going to read on to find out!

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