Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thoughts on Patricia Briggs

A little while ago, I did a post on why Anne Bishop's recent writing hasn't worked for me. Yesterday I finished Patricia Brigg's new novel, Fair Game. It's a straightforward paranormal fantasy with a strong romantic line, and it's relatively short. But I enjoyed it, for a very simple reason: the story was well crafted.

A lot of author's try to cram too much stuff into a book. A friend of mine recently chalanged me to tell him what my book was about in one sentance or less. Granted, I took a moment or two to craft that sentance, but I could do it. I understand that virtually everything else I'm putting into that story is more or less window dressing for that one sentance. When editing time comes, I need to make sure that what I told my friend my story is about is communicated more than anything else. Sadly, I find that sometimes professional authors can make this mistake, and bury their plot in so much extraneous fluff than a reader can have a hard time finding it.

Happily, Briggs is not one of that kind of author, and that's why I tend to respond well to her work. Fair Game is ultimately about Anna and Charles tracking down a serial killer who specializes in supernatural prey. There's a subplot featuring Anna and Charles' relationship, because every relationship requires constant work. That's why romance novels can be so unrelatable: you don't get to walk off into a sunset forever. There's also an underlying theme of racism and intolerance, but that doesn't distract from the plot. Overall, the book is about as relastic as a paranormal fantasy with werewolves and faeries can be.

Now, I will grant you that one reason why Briggs can get away without a lot of window dressing on her latest books is because she's already done a lot of world building in previous novels. But even if you look at her earlier works, even the pre-Mercy Thompson ones, you see that she is an incredibly clean and concise writer. If something doesn't need to be there, you don't see even a hint of it. She built her incredibly detailed world over a number of novels, not in one foundational info drop. And over the course of her career, those tiny additions and explanations have served her very well.

In other words, she keeps it simple, in the best possible connotation. A well crafted story doesn't need a lot of bells and whistles to entertain.


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