John Grisham recently proved that, when it comes to writing a novel, good characters and a good story can redeem a ton of sins. The book in question is Playing for Pizza, a novel about a third-string NFL quarterback, Rick Dockery, who literally throws away the big game, killing all hopes for his team’s shot at the national title. When the Cleveland Browns turn him loose a day later, his agent’s phone starts ringing, only it’s other teams telling the agent not to waste their time—they don’t want him either. Fate turns Rick’s life around, though, when his agent contacts a coach in desperate need of an NFL quarterback. One problem: the team is located in Parma, Italy. Throughout the course of the story, Rick has to rediscover who he is. He also has to answer questions about what he really wants out of life.
From a writer’s perspective, this book held many broken arrows in its quiver, and at times I questioned whether to finish it or to put it down and move on. First, Grisham relied too much upon the conjugated forms of the verb to be. Then, with long narratives describing how certain foods are prepared and how the Italians eat their meals, the book often felt like either a thesis for a master’s program or a travel guide. While regurgitating research is acceptable in some formats, in a novel it can create a disturbing sense of authorial intrusion, jarring the reader from his fictional dream.
Still, I never threw the book away. Instead, I turned page after page until I reached the end, where a satisfied smile pulled at the corner my lips. And why? Grisham accomplished what many writers strive for—he wrote a good story with relatable characters. As we’ve all heard or read before, there are no stories without characters, and while readers may forgive a ton of errors, bad grammar among them, they won’t forgive a boring story with un-relatable characters. In Playing for Pizza, the person of Rick Dockery captivated me. With each new challenge, I wondered how he would resolve the problem, and I found myself cheering him on.
So, my hat’s off to John Grisham. By writing a good story and diving into the lives of the characters, he kept this reader engaged. A good lesson reaffirmed. I only hope I can do the same for my readers.
On to other news:
This last week, my good friend, Paige, bestowed a nice gift upon me: The Super Peeps Club. I consider myself truly blessed. For those of you who don’t know Paige, she has two wonderful blogs. First, you can see life as she sees it, literally, at her 365 Views By Me blog. You can also read about her life, her experiences and observations, at Paradise Valley 2...Hell's Mountain.
According to Paige, this award goes to other bloggers who have made an impact on your life. To pay it forward, then, I would like to grant the award to the following:
To Greta Igl, who has been a great friend and writing buddy. Because of her, I have learned much about writing, like digging for the deeper issues behind the stories.
To Carol Benedict, whose informative blog constantly touches upon things writers need to know when crafting stories.
I only regret that my good buddy John Towler doesn’t have a blog yet. John has been a great friend and sounding board along the way.
And while the next couple of writers are still new friends to me, I think they have noteworthy blogs for you to visit.
First, you might want to check out Paul Brazill, a new friend on the internet. He’s an amazing writer from the other side of the world. His site is informative as well as a nice portal to his work.
Then, you might also consider Cynthia Newberry Martin. Her blog Catching Days is also a nice mixture of life experiences, literary observations, as well as a portal to her writing.
Finally, April is now just a few days away, and my novel is calling out to me. Next month, I plan to sit down to work through my first revision.
Until next time…