Welcome back to another Write On Purpose book review. Each week I review a well-written book, highlighting what makes it good from the reader’s perspective and what writing skills and techniques make it an irresistible read.Thus, each review serves both writers and readers.
This week's excellent read is a paranormal romantic suspense story Voodoo Butterfly by Camille Faye. Here is the Amazon review:
I stayed up WAY too late a few nights reading this excellent book! I'm a huge fan of paranormal fiction, and this is a fabulous read, engaging and well-written. I love stories with a heroine who is strong yet flawed, and Sophie certainly is both. Unaware of the bounty in her midst when she inherits her new life, she first lets her own doubts and pain from her past to wall herself off from those who care for her. This book is so good I shall review it on my website as well, with a deeper critique than I do here on Amazon.
Faith, fear, purpose and transformation fill the pages of Voodoo Butterfly. This is truly a tale of transformation, and not merely because of the presence of those winged messengers. If you love a good paranormal read, this book will keep you engaged right from the first page.
No matter what genre you may prefer to read, the "ideal" point of view character has both strengths and flaws. Just like "real" people out here in the tangible world.
The most interesting tales feature 3-dimensional lead characters who have a fatal flaw which could keep them from reaching their ultimate desire.
Sophie's fatal flaws are her doubt and her walls. So scarred by her past is she that she is unable to open up to love. And I'm not only speaking of romance, though there is a strong romantic storyline.
As Sophie enters her new life in New Orleans after her grandmother's death, her emotional armor prevents her from experiencing friendship freely given. Poppy, co-owner of the Voodoo shop Sophia inherited, offers her open love and acceptance, yet she is too closed and distrusting to see it.
Sophie's past haunts her and affects current decisions and actions. This makes for good reading, because the reader wants her to overcome those old traumas and embrace her new power.
While her mindset definitely interferes with the budding romance, it also informs her daily decisions.
Author Tip: As an author, if you want to write deeper stories, pour that fatal flaw into every chapter. It adds emotion and intensity to your story. Give your reader something interesting to chew upon even after she finishes the book.
Where to Start Telling the Story
Common wisdom on where to begin a book is right in the middle of the action. I like to say start at the first sign of conflict. You only have a page or two to grab the reader by the metaphorical collar and compel her to keep reading.
For a few months now I have been reading submissions for a publisher, and I have become more keenly aware than ever how important the first couple of pages have become.
Indeed, some samples I have read are so awful that I don't get past page one, or even all the way to the end of it.
Voodoo Butterfly dives into the first conflict fairly quickly, but it begins with the past. The writing is good enough I turned the page, but I thought it was strange to start with history.
The tale began with Sophie's mom's funeral., which is back story, not current conflict Back story is the stuff we want to learn about as it comes up in the POV character's memory or in some other direct experience.
Beginning with a funeral is tricky business, as the reader has not yet developed any affinity for the narrator. We don't know her yet, so how can we?
If I were to recommend one thing for this book, and it is a minor one, I would suggest making a slight modification to the start of the book.
Not that Ms. Faye asked me, BUT it's my review and my chance to give my own humble opinion while helping authors, so here goes. This is what I would do.
I ould take out the whole section about the mother's funeral and those feelings. THey'll all come up soon enough.
HOWEVER, from that section, I would definitely certainly bring in mom's box of secrets, as it is significant. That box, not the funeral or family oes, pulled me into the tale.
Imagine opening the story something like this:
I just inherited a voodoo shop in New Orleans? Fingers trembling, I read the letter again to review two shocking discoveries:I had an until-now unknown grandmother whom I would obviously never meet, and I now owned her business about which I knew nothing in a town about which I knew nothing. I had never even left my hometown.
Making a small shift to where a story starts can add even more suspense and build empathy. Right after a strong opening, there is time to have Sophie look through her box of secrets, perhaps adding the will to it.
The next thing that happens is the million butterfly march, so that definitely captures the reader's imagination.
Author Tip: Power up Descriptions
Powerful writing does not end with -ly. Power emanates from verbs and imagery. Here are some of my favorite examples that will help you show rather than explain action through the narrator's perceptions:
Describing emotion: Don't write "I was afraid" or I felt afraid." Show the reader how the fear acted and felt. Fiction writing is about the experience through the perception of the point of view character.
Whispers of fear slithered through me as reality settled in. I was lost.
Sadness pinned my heart to my chest.
Describing movement: You can avoid the more simplistic word and make the book more interesting for the reader. Look what word the author described the motion of the monarchs in these three passages.
Millions of monarch butterflies rushed down the street like a tangerine river.
The mass of them actually churned the air, making me feel as if I was in a churning cauldron of steaming stew.
Monarch butterflies crawled over every square inch of the building, making the church come alive The building twisted and turned with the movement of muscles and joints underneath a skin of orange and black iridescent wings.
Transformational stories are those with three basic elements:
- Quest: The hero searches for something important and undertakes a journey of transformation in order to attain it.
- Tests: A road of trials
- Loss: A dark night of the soul during which the hero could lose everything
- Victory (or sometimes not): The hero ultimately wins despite insurmountable difficulties and crushing defeats.
In short, personal growth of the hero is a requirement. Change is what makes people want to read books. Something needs to be different by the end of the novel.
Throw a person into a situation she didn't ask for but ultimately decides to embrace. Add numerous challenges to overcome, including in this case death threats and someone actively trying to lead the Sophie off her path. Include allies and useful tools. And be sure to bring the point of view character to the brink of giving up more than once.
FUll of emotional scars, Sophie inherits a whole new life in a strange town and an innate power she didn't know she possessed when she inherits the shop. Thus begins her journey.
Her own doubts and fears make the various trials and tribulations she faces that much worse. Death threats frighten her, sure, but facing down her own personal demons terrifies her more, especially once she opens enough to truly care about those who care for her.
Voodoo Butterfly is a self-help book as well as a good read in that the reader learns about the power of the mind and heart while reading. There are lots of great mindset teachings threaded through the tale.
That's one of the things I love most about this book. Sophie doesn't merely make choices and deal with challenges. She develops a whole new perspective, and in so doing, the reader may perhaps glean some knowledge to help her develop her own personal power.
Get your own copy of Voodoo Butterfly
You can read the book on any device or computer by downloading a free Kindle Reading App. If you need one, you'll see a link right there on ANY Kindle book page, below the buy box.
*Originally posted on Write On Purpose, by Ronda Del Boccio