Monday, October 9, 2017

Google Search: From Head Transplants to Book Souls

The Beckort household had a head lice scare at the end of the summer. I suppose I should count my lucky stars that we made it 11 years without the kid coming in contact with the little buggers, but still. LICE {yuck} Well, I quickly went into full combat mode, and my first stop was Google. I had to know what I was looking for and what to do about it. As I typed in ‘head’ I was met with the following suggestions by the Google bots:

Even in my DEFCON 1 mode, I had to pause when I saw ‘head transplant’. I mean, what? As intrigued as I was, I didn’t have time to investigate further. My understanding is that lice multiply by the millisecond.

Later, once the house and all family and pet members were fully deloused, I did a legit search on head transplant. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was surprised to learn that there’s a doctor who is actually trying to complete the first human head transplant. Technically it’s more like a body transplant, but head transplant must sound cooler. Apparently, this has already been attempted several times with animals. I’ll never forgive Google for putting me on this path after seeing the pictures of the two-headed rats... Why? Just, why?

I considered doing a flash fiction for this post, but with our Stephen Kozeniewski as the resident horror writer on the blog, I knew I could never produce something worthy of the topic. So then I started thinking about the ethics of a head transplant. It’s not surprising that there are people who think doing this is immoral. That it would be like separating the soul from the body or even attempting a mixing of souls. I believe we all have souls, but I never actually thought about where the soul resides. Is it only in the brain? Is it the heart? Is it the entire body? Or is the soul outside the body, controlling us like avatars?

Well, that’s all a bit heavy for this post. So like any good rabbit hole, my mind wandered to the soul of books. I’d qualify the book’s soul as the essential part of the story. That one part that would render the book useless if it didn’t exist or if were changed in some way. Is it in the characters? The plot? The setting? A combination of all?

I’m going to select my favorite multiple choice answer: All of the Above.

I’ve read some books where the character(s) carried the entire book. One that comes to mind is YOU by Caroline Kepnes. You could pick Joe up and plop him down in another setting or plot and he’d be just as intriguing. He makes the story.

When I think about the soul of a book residing in the plot, most murder mysteries and thrillers come to mind. The whole point of the book is to figure out who-done-it. An annoying protagonist can be easily overlooked if the plot offers up some good unexpected twists and turns. One of my personal favorites is SHUTTER ISLAND by Dennis Lehane. That book gripped me from the start and didn’t let go for a while after I had finished reading.

I’m not usually a reader who gets swept away by the setting. That’s just not where I like to get lost. However, once in a while a book takes me by surprise and I want to immerse myself in its world. My favorite has to be THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern. The characters were great and I loved the storyline, but it was the setting that had me enthralled. I found myself wishing the Night Circus would show up in my town in real life. And I’m not even a circus fan!

Then there are some books that combine all three in a way that would make it impossible for one to exist without the other. I’m currently listening to the CHIEF INSPECTOR ARMAND GAMACHE Series by Louise Penny. These murder mysteries mostly happen in the small fictional Canadian village of Three Pines. Each of the three areas—plot, characters, setting—are so intricately woven together I’m convinced none could exist without the others.

All this got me thinking about the souls of my books. I’ve often thought through the ‘reason’ for each of my books (as in what I want the reader to get out of reading it) but I haven’t really thought about it in terms of where the soul lies. I suppose each book does and will have an individual soul, which will reside wherever that particular book needs it to be. But I also think I have a universal book soul that stretches across everything I write—emotional connection. I want to write things that make people feel something, anything—from happiness to hopefulness to anger to everything else in-between. For me, the worst possible reaction I could get from a reader is indifference. I believe my natural writing style evokes emotions, so my challenge comes in successfully attaching the characters, the plot, and the setting to the emotional conduit I’ve created.

What about you? If you’re a writer, where does the soul for your book(s) lie? If you’re a reader, which of the book soul locations mentioned above do you enjoy most?

~ Carrie


Jonathan Schramm said...

Nice post, Carrie! I want to read that flash fiction piece. Anyone can writer horror, and I'd read it!

Makes me wonder if we shouldn't put an ATB anthology together where we all write each other's genres. Would be fun! #thinkaboutit

Carrie Beckort said...

Hmmm, that's an interesting suggestion. I am always up for a challenge ;)

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