Writing Lessons from Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

I read this book because I was curious after seeing the movie trailer on TV in January and February. This post has light spoilers.

  1. Know how to accurately represent your character’s voice. The main character is a teenage boy, but he doesn’t speak like one. He sounds like a 16-30 year old woman.
  2. Don’t stereotype your setting. Even as someone who’s never been to the South, I cringed at some of the stereotypical representations of people who live there. (Do people in the South really wear Gone with the Wind-esque dresses to prom?)
  3. Edit!!! Thirty pages into this nearly six hundred page book, I realized everything I’d read so far could be cut out. That thought struck me again and again as I waded through this book.
  4. Move at a snappy pace. There were long passages were absolutely nothing happened. In a book with a threat hanging over the story, I expected a faster pace and more action.
  5. Keep out irrelevant information. I didn’t need to read passages in Gaelic, Latin, and what was supposed to be old English(?) as the characters read them–especially since the response to that was almost always, “This doesn’t help at all.” I found myself skipping those sections more often than naught. It would have been enough if the characters had simply commented on the more relevant sections.
  6. Show us the main characters falling in love. The YA market is sadly overrun with paranormal romances where the leads fall in love because it’s destiny or for no discernible reason whatsoever. In addition to being frustrating, it also gives readers unrealistic ideas of love.
  7. Don’t interrupt the tension of the climax. The big event of the story is on the brink of happening and…there’s a surprise birthday party?
  8. If you use parallels, symbolism, etc, make sure they work. I thought this novel was trying to parallel the American Civil War to something because it was brought up over and over and there was a reenactment on the same day of the climax. I was kind of lost as to what the Civil War really had to do with anything.
  9. Black and white doesn’t fly anymore. The idea of Dark Casters and Light Casters really bothered me, especially since they don’t have a choice. I know it’s the curse, but I find it hard to accept that someone’s true nature can just be erased and he or she can become fully “evil.” Since the Dark and Light was first mentioned, I kept waiting for the idea to be subverted, but it never was.