Writers Who Read
#26

6 December 2020

The Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead

Agenda



  • Why We're Here

  • Literary Forensics
  •     - What do I bring?
  •     - What do I feel?
  •     - What do I notice?
  •     - What do I want to learn?

  • Next Month's Reading & Study


Why We're Here

We Writers want to improve our craft

by Reading like a Writer

through Literary Forensics training

we learn from each other

Roundtable Rules

Always refer back to the book

We practice active listening & serendipity

Every feeling and observation is valid...
but not every conclusion

Always refer back to the book

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

Introductions

What do I bring
to this book?

Today's author: Arch Colson Chipp Whitehead

  • Harvard class of 1991
  • then wrote for the Village Voice

  • Authored 6 other novels
  • The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, Apex Hides the Hurt,
    Sag Harbor, Zone One, The Underground Railroad
  • . . . and 2 non-fiction books
  • ALL published by Doubleday

  • Taught at Princeton, Columbia, et al
  • Writer-in-Residence at Vassar, U Richmond, U Wyoming

Whitehead has described the characters as "two different parts of my personality", with Elwood Curtis being "the optimistic or hopeful part of me that believes we can make the world a better place if we keep working at it", and Jack Turner, "the cynical side that says no—this country is founded on genocide, murder, and slavery and it will always be that way."

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

What do I feel?

What in the book elicited that feeling?

Every feeling and observation is valid...
but every conclusion should be questioned

We practice serendipity
- nothing is too crazy

Always refer back to the book

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

What do I notice?


  •    • Language and Grammar

  •    • Context

  •    • Point of view

  •    • Character & character development

  •    • Horizontal structure

  •    • Pacing

  •    • Layering of themes

  •    • Overall effect

Themes

Prologue DONTs


  • Information dump

  • Boring!

  • Nothing to do with main story

  • Too long

  • Only there to hook reader

  • Only used for atmosphere or world-building

https://www.writersdigest.com/publishing-insights/great-debate-prologue-not-prologue

Prologue DOs


  • Must be an integral part of the novel

  • Should read like a short story

  • Should start with a strong and intriguing hook

  • Must stand out from the body of the novel
    - Time of events (History or Future)
    - Different POV
    - Reader feels distinct switch in feel at Chapter 1


https://www.writing-world.com/fiction/prologue.shtml

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

The Nickel Boys - Stats

Marketing: African American Literature, African American Literary Fiction, Historical African Fiction
Genre: Realistic Present-Day / Historical Arch-Plot Long-Form
Word count: 58,482
Print Pages: 210
Reading Level: 8th grade
POV: mostly Elwood -> Turner

Publish date: July 16, 2019
Publisher: Doubleday
Sold By: Random House
Audio book narration: JD Jackson, Colson Whitehead

Prizes: 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
The Underground Railroad - 2017 Pulitzer Prize

Literary Forensics

 

What do I bring?

What do I feel?

What do I notice?

What do I want to learn?

Writers Who Read: Coming Up

January 3: A Burning - Megha Majumdar (India, 2020)
February 7: Red Pill - Hari Kunzru (England, 2020)
March 7: Interior Chinatown - Charles Yu (USA, 2020)
April 4: Apeirogon - Colum McCann (Ireland, 2020)
May 2: The Lying Life of Adults - Elena Ferrante
(Italy, trans. 2020 by Ann Goldstein)
June 6: The Vanishing Half - Brit Bennett (USA, 2020)




Thanks to: Boulder Writers Alliance

Contact Gary: hello@garyalanmcbride.com
Literary Forensics Resources

Happy
Sleuthing!