The trials and tribulations of Cabot characters.

July 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

Meg Cabot has got her writing down to a science.  Who knew writing young adult fiction novels could be so formulaic?  But if you haven’t noticed, each book begins, climaxes, and finishes in the same way.  And I have figured out her writing equation.

1. Open beginning chapter with piece of dialogue usually directed toward the narrator. Then immediately (before replying to said dialogue) have the narrator launch into a tremendous back story that sets up the plot of the novel–she’s just moved from small town Indiana to Manhattan, she just moved from small town to Baltimore, Marlyand, she is a liar and really doesn’t like eating quahogs (because all the narrators have to be a she).  Have the narrator allude to some big secret, but only enough to get the reader’s attention.  End chapter with the responding dialogue and a cliffhanger, a moment where the reader says:  “Gasp!! DUM DUM DUMMMMM.”

2. Begin chapter 2, still setting up the plot of the story, allude once more to the big secret.  End chapter with a cliffhanger.

3. Repeat step 2 for a few more chapters.

4. Reveal the big secret, which turns out to be somewhat predictable and now a disappointment because too much suspense has been made of it.

5. End book with a chapter in which the narrator confronts her evil parallel and the love of her life.  In some cases, this involves sword fighting, gun firing, witchcraft, and so on.  Narrator gives endearing speech which rivals that of chick flick film monologues.  Everything ends neatly wrapped up and a happily ever after for the narrator.

And in five simple steps, you have just written your novel.

Now, I don’t really have anything against Meg Cabot, just simply in a supercilious way.  I mean, who wants to be the author of 20+ books and have them all read the same way?  The narrators become indistinguishable from each other:  I can never remember their names, who did what, who is in love with who, and so on and so forth.  It makes me beg the question–in a purely innocent and honest and perhaps naive way–where is the fun in writing?  Or, is there any fun left in crafting a book that has become so scientific?

I’m not sure I can answer for Cabot, but I think for me writing books would become too much of a job and not enough of a hobby anymore.  I’m afraid my love of writing would be diluted by the numbers I’m churning out.

But though her books are completely simple in their plot structures, I have to admit that Cabot has a way of turning her narrators into the readers.  Because each young girl has the exact same voice, it’s almost comfortable to read multiple Cabot books, and then that narrator no longer becomes the narrator, but she becomes me, and I’m the one that pushes the President out of harm’s way, and I’m the one that falls in love with my best friend, and I’m the one that escapes the clutches of my evil, well, whatever the relationship of the evil character is.  And in that way, Cabot has marketed escapist literature.  And she may be the best one at it yet.


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