f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 3 of <em>Asher Lev</em> - Some Writing Tips Drawn From the Novel

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Day 3 of Asher Lev - Some Writing Tips Drawn From the Novel

Today we’ll look at pure nuts and bolts.

One of the things that stood out to me this time was Potok’s dialogue. It’s crisp and flat for the most part. He rarely uses attributions and I don’t know that there is an adverb in the book. Yet we get meaning, we get layers of implication. We read between the lines. This is good stuff.

Repetition. Some of you have already noted this. Potok certainly repeats actions and behaviors—not only the rituals of the Jewish faith, but the daily rituals of the Lev household. It can get wearying at times, but by having this repetition it allows for a writer to make small changes significant. If Asher’s dad DOESN’T make orange juice for instance. Or when prayers aren’t said, that’s significant. And you need the repetition to set those things up.

Passing of time. Asher grows up in this story before our eyes. Potok makes us aware of this mostly through the dialogue (“Is my papa angry?” at first, later dropping the “my”) and the developing complexity of expression. I think it works pretty well.

I don’t necessarily know what to say about the book’s divisions. The first section ends with his father’s departure for Vienna. The second section ends with his mother going away. Slowly we’re left with Asher. Alone. I think it’s good to have those psychic pauses in there letting us know—“here is a break, something is going to change.” It’s all about pace and flow in the novel—two things I consider myself a raging amateur at.

For more on pace, reread the climactic “gallery scene.” Check out how that reads. There’s no paragraph breaks. We’re drawn through this with a gaining momentum. Much of the set-up plays out in two long paragraphs. Finally we’re drawn into the scene with Asher addressing his father. Honestly, my heart rate went up during this scene the way it does during exciting parts of mystery/suspense novels.

And, just to mention it: one of my favorite scenes is Asher getting back at his classmate for the nasty poems by drawing the boy Michelangelo’s Last Judgement. Cracks me up.

Go to Day 4 of Asher Lev