Monday, September 29, 2008

Teaching By Example: Gayle Roper









At my first Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, I was in the mentoring class taught by Gayle Roper. I really can’t recall how I came to choose Gayle’s class, but I’m certainly happy I did. As the time drew near for her to critique my work in front of the class, I thought of all the mistakes I’d seen her gently point out in the writing of others and realized that my submission contained examples of almost every one of these transgressions. But Gayle epitomized the lessons of I Corinthians 13. She was patient and kind, she didn’t keep score, and she didn’t delight in my shortcomings. Instead, she treated my work the same as she had that of others. She pointed out ways to improve the writing, and rewrote portions of the material to illustrate her points. In other words, she taught by example.

Gayle’s latest novel is Fatal Deduction, and it’s apparent to me that Gayle is still showing by example. The first chapter not only hooked me, it demonstrated the way a master writer can reveal backstory and set a stage without resorting to the obvious.

Here’s what I, as a novice writer, might have written four years ago: Libby Keating, an antique collector, had been forced to leave her comfortable home and move to Philadelphia, to a small house on a cobblestone lane.

Gayle does it this way (writing in first person, which I find extremely difficult): I studied the block of Olde Philadelphia as I walked toward Aunt Stella’s house, the bags bumping and complaining their way over the uneven surface. I should be happy to be living here, being in the antiques and collectibles business as I was, but I guess no one likes having her life rearranged without her permission.

Fatal Deduction is one of Gayle’s best books. Publisher’s Weekly apparently agreed, giving it a glowing review. Here’s an excerpt from what they wrote: “Roper's dialogue and character development are spot-on, which is no small feat, considering that Libby's world is peopled by everyone from elderly patricians to two-bit gangsters.”

Let me note here that Gayle didn’t ask me to post this, nor am I trying to ingratiate myself with the folks at her publishers. I just wanted to steer my readers to an excellent novel, one that is entertaining while modeling the way an accomplished novelist writes. And we all know that to write good novels, we need to read good novels. Fatal Deduction should be on that list.

2 comments:

One More Writer said...

Ah, yet another book for my "to read" list!

Seriously, I loved taking Gayle's clinic--and not just because it is where I met you! She was such a gracious teacher and I have enjoyed chatting with her when we've been at other conferences together since then.

Thanks for the recommendation!

One More Writer said...

Ah, yet another book for my "to read" list!

Seriously, I loved taking Gayle's clinic--and not just because it is where I met you! She was such a gracious teacher and I have enjoyed chatting with her when we've been at other conferences together since then.

Thanks for the recommendation!