Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Zodiac House: Monkey chapter

Hey, I'll bet those of you who were paying attention thought I wasn't writing this book any more. Well...I kind of wasn't. I didn't decide to not write it, I was just feeling like other things were more important to get to first. But this morning was a monkey kind of morning, so here we are. For those of you who weren't paying attention, I'm writing a children's book with the chapters themed around the Chinese zodiac, and I'm musing about writing children's books in general and this one in specific as I finish each chapter, sparked by the Chinese Cultural Center pages for the different signs.

The Chinese Cultural Center page says, People born in the Year of the Monkey are the erratic geniuses of the cycle. Clever, skillful, and flexible, they are remarkably inventive and original and can solve the most difficult problems with ease. There are few fields in which Monkey people wouldn't be successful but they have a disconcerting habit of being too agreeable. They want to do things now, and if they cannot get started immediately, they become discouraged and sometimes leave their projects. Although good at making decisions, they tend to look down on others. Having common sense, Monkey people have a deep desire for knowledge and have excellent memories.

This book is kind of a monkey-book that way: it's too agreeable. I know, I know, we're not supposed to say that about books, but the hard part has been finding chewy bits to be hard parts, rather than anything more typical of book-writing. And as a children's book, it'll be short -- so by the time I would have reached a real mid-book doldrum, I'll be done. Except -- except that I'm wrestling with keeping the whole thing from being mid-book doldrum, because it feels like it's a bit pat and a bit gimmicky, and I'm having to poke it pretty hard to get it to stop.

It's not that no successful children's book has ever been gimmicky -- far from it. The ones I'm thinking of right now are Encyclopedia Brown. Amazon seems to think they're still selling them, but I'm having a hard time thinking of anyone who would want to reread Encyclopedia Brown books as an adult (speak up if I'm wrong!). Each episode is short and, if I recall correctly, features a gimmicky solution in the end of the book. I don't think I'd be happy writing Encyclopedia Brown-type books more than once or twice, and that only as a challenge.

Then I think about the book I'm reading right now: Garth Nix's Lady Friday. I love this series. It's got a central gimmick -- each of the entities the main character is dealing with is associated with a day of the week -- but while it remains "clever, skillful, and flexible," the heart is still there.

Oddly, I think the heart went back into this book with the monkey chapter. So...yay, maybe?
Tags: zodiac house
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