Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday Books for Writers! Marcello In the Real World

Marcello In The Real World
by Francisco Stork

Read this if you are writing:
From a young adult male POV
About people with developmental disabilities
About faith
About a difficult ethical decision
A quite/tame legal thriller
A coming of age story

It's been a while since I've done a Tuesday Books for Writers! post, not because I haven't wanted to, but because I haven't found anything I wanted to write about. I don't go into the archives of my reading past for these things, I'm all about living in the moment, writing and recommending as a read. I read a lot of books I think people will like, but to recommend it to a writer has a whole set of bizarro Melissa rules that, honestly, aren't worth getting into (and the head cold isn't making it any easier).

In any case, me oh my, love that country pie, this book makes the cut. And boy does it ever. This book delves into some of my favorite themes as a reader/writer: religion, ethics, faith, and self-discovery. It involves a narrator with a cognitive disorder (loosely labelled as Asperger Syndrome) and part of it takes place in Vermont (my favorite state).

I could gush all day. I finished with a sigh...an ache in my heart...hope in my soul! (Bear with the head cold, people, bear with it!) But that's of no use to you.

So I'm going to talk about character goals. And birth scenes.

I think it's Writing 101 that your novel needs to begin with something new. A new person walks in the door. Your character is charged with a new mission. He or she is dumped into a new place. And the character must cope. They must survive. The moment this is introduced is what somebody once told me is called the birth scene. And I rather liked it being called that. And it's always a birth scene, even if it means somebody died and left your character all alone. No matter what, they have to be born again into something new. And this novel does it well. Marcello is cast out, against his will, into what we all call the 'real world', to work at his father's law firm for the summer. And when you're a person with special needs who has been sheltered from the real world, as Marcello has, this is a rebirth of epic proportions. And, yet, it's done quietly and beautifully in this novel. So, read this book, and make sure your characters have a 'real world' too.

Then we've got goals. This is also pretty basic. Your character has to have a goal. Something that drives the novel forward. I know you're all thinking, yeah, duh, I know that already but I'm going to challenge you. Does your reader know? After I wrote the first 100 pages of my novel I realized, 'er, uh, Melissa, your peoples ain't ever specified a darn here goal'. It's amazing how the basics can slip away when you're in the trenches. The reason this novel is a good resource for goals is because it's very clearly spelled out. Marcello is someone who thrives on structure, order, and rules. Stork spells that out as soon as we're thrust into the novel. This is Marcello's on-the-surface-goal: If I follow the rules of the law firm, I will get to choose what school I get to go to next year. And I want to go to Patterson. Thank you Marcello. You know about goals. I think it's important to write out a character's goal for the reader. It doesn't have to be as blunt and plain as Marcello's (his character warrants a straight forward telling) but it should be there. Even if it's as subtle and quiet as your character shaking fists at the sky and shouting, "I'll never go hungry again!" Thank you Scarlett O'Hara. You know about goals too.

Anyways, there's that. I hope you'll read this book even if you don't care about birth scenes or goals. What a beautiful story. Just the right balance of plot and character drive. And Marcello. A character who will stay with me always.

Has anyone else read this book? Please share your thoughts if you will :-)


  1. This book is making the rounds at my critique group (we all buy dift. books and share them), so I have to wait a week for my turn. I've heard such great things.

    Also, thanks for bringing up how we writers forget the basics while we're in the trenches. Boy do I ever do that!

  2. Lori, let me know what you think after you read Marcello! I'd love to hear your thoughts.