Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls by Riley Sager, Paperback, 339 pages, Ebury Press, £12.99, Waterstones

Overview

Quincy Carpenter is a Final Girl. Quincy shares this title with two other girls, Lisa and Samantha. When Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances, Quincy can’t quite shift that something doesn’t feel right. With Sam showing up unexpected and angry at Lisa’s death, Quincy must quickly figure out whether to trust her gut reactions once again, to find out what happened to Lisa.

Characterisation

Riley’s characterisation in Final Girls is distinctive and really adds to the reader’s experience. Each character shows different qualities and varies in depth, regardless how much they are in the novel. Craig, Quincy’s love interest before the Pine Cottage incident, changes throughout Quincy’s memories, making him feel realistic and in some areas, relatable.

Reflecting on Quincy and Sam, their emotions have been shown in such detail that it makes the reader understand how their previous escapes have caused them to react differently to life. One element that Sager has mastered in Final Girls is that every character’s actions and emotions have all been created with intent. It is this understanding that makes this book intense from the very beginning. There’s a reason Quincy has memory issues. There’s a reason why Same is so angry. There’s a reason why Pine Cottage has not been forgotten.

Narrative

The narrative of Final Girls is written in two perspectives. The majority of the novel is written in first person through the eyes of Quincy Carpenter. However Quincy’s memories relating to Pine Cottage are in third person, closed perspective. Using various viewpoints works well here as it helps the reader differentiate between what is memory and what is reality. Furthermore with Quincy suffering from memory loss due to trauma, the narrative itself is pivotal for Quincy’s understanding of what happened at Pine Cottage and what has happened to Lisa.

Overall

Final Girls is a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, trying to crack the case between Lisa’s death and Pine Cottage. Sager’s novel springs into action and doesn’t skip a beat until the very end.

Prepare yourself for twists and turns and then prepare some more.

I really enjoyed this book and was pleased to say that my instincts with this book were correct. Final Girls is a psychological thriller that you need to take with you on your next holiday. Final Girls is light enough to read with ease and suspenseful enough to keep you hooked.

This novel was compared to Gone Girl by Stephen King when I originally bought this book. However, I find The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins to be a much closer comparison – but don’t take my word for it. Grab yourself a copy and see for yourself!

Star rating: 4/5

Tripwire by Lee Child

Tripwire by Lee Child, Paperback, Transworld Publishers, 544 pages, £8.99, Waterstones.

Plot

The book begins in a sunny Key West, when a man called Costello is looking for Reacher. After retracing Costello’s movements, Reacher finds himself returning to his army roots, in search for a missing soldier. Tripwire focuses mostly on Jack Reacher’s army life and what his possible future may look like. A drifter can’t drift forever, can they?

Narrative

Tripwire follows Reacher in the hopes of finding a missing soldier whilst the reader is simultaneously observing Chester Stone’s lifestyle and failing business. The book alternates between Reacher and Chester’s situation, in order to set the scene for the reader that will eventually overlap these narratives together. The pace of both narrative scenes quicken at the same time until reader is found racing to the finish line with Reacher on the lookout.

Review

This is the first book in the Reacher series I’ve read and it definitely won’t be my last. As a writer myself, I find his use of structure intriguing; how he creates tension and suspense with no nonsense language is mesmerizing.

One of the most impressive elements of this book, is Lee Child’s attention to detail. Child’s knowledge of guns and, in particular, Fighter planes, are so accurate that you would almost expect him to have flown a Fighter jet or have used a few of the guns he describes so well. The specificality of his writing appears to be exactly what the reader needs to allow themselves to be immersed in Reacher’s world.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action and adventure in novels. Tripwire is a great read for someone who wishes to get into reading without the flowery language that can often cloud a great narrative. Lee Child’s writing is raw and extremely well written.

Similar Writers

Although not many writers can compare to his writing style, I would recommend John Grisham’s Camino Island, as this also begins in the Florida state. Both writers create legal thrillers and have a similar pacing style.

Another writer that could be compared to Lee Child, would be James Patterson. The crimes within Patterson’s books mirrors some of Lee Child’s books, if a dark theme is your theme of choice.

You can buy Tripwire by Lee Child by clicking here

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless Street, Catriona Ward, Hardback, 400 pages, Profile Books Ltd, Waterstones, £7.49

The Last House on Needless Street takes place in an ordinary house on an ordinary street. However what happens in this street is anything but ordinary.

The plot focuses on the disappearance of Lulu, also known as Little Girl with Popsicle, eleven years ago at a lake near Ted Bannerman’s house. Ted Bannerman was always a prime suspect in the case but was never arrested. Eleven years later and Ted is still perceived to be the prime suspect in the case.

The narrative follows four POV, Ted, Lauren, Olivia and Dee, through the form of chapters. Each POV is pivotal to the mystery of the missing girl by the lake. Not only do these narratives help us uncover what has happened to Little Girl with Popsicle, but their distinct voices and attitudes highlight Catriona Ward’s talent for characterisation.

Before reading The Last House on Needless Street, you must banish all predictions and assumptions of the novel you’re expecting to read and focus on the book in the present. This novel has many twists with many secrets unfolding like a spring flower ready to bloom.

Throughout the novel we learn of Ted’s loneliness and the depths he’s willing to go for companionship. In some areas Ward’s novel echoes the loneliness of the creature in Shelley’s Frankenstein, who seeks affection but is afraid of the outcome.

The Last House on Needless Street may leave you with challenging views and conflicting opinions. Regardless of a like or dislike for this book, it cannot be ignored that Catriona Ward’s writing is gripping and well-considered on a topic so delicate. Due to some complexities, the novel has been considered to fit the horror genre, however if you like psychological thrillers, I would urge you to consider a jump into this book, as it provides areas accomodating both genres.

If you would like to read the book, you can find it here.

For more reviews head over to my instagram page @cbarkerwriting for daily updates.

The First Line

First lines matter. Whether they are in a blog post, a newsletter or a novel, the first line is crucial.

Whilst you’re in the editing phase of your writing, it can be easily forgotten to revise your first line. The first line will have different purposes in various texts but there is one thing it needs to be. Good.

Your first line, if writing for a newsletter or a blog, must intrigue your reader and invite them to read more. Your purpose here is to keep them reading right until the very end. A great way to revise your first line is to read your writing as a reader. Would you be interested? Would it stop you scrolling? What could you add to the line to make it more gripping? If you’re still unsure, it could be worth letting someone read the first line to give you another point of view. They may even see something that you didn’t.

If however you are revising a first line of a novel, the aim and purpose of your writing may be different. Your goal, as a writer, is to lose your readers in your novel. Allow your readers to become invested in your characters and don’t settle for anything less. Although you still need to grip the reader with your opening lines, you have a variety of techniques open to you. Here are a few that you may wish to try:

Surprise the reader

This type of hook causes the reader to raise questions or surprises them by catching them off guard. A great example of this is from Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit: ‘It was a pleasure to burn’. The concept that some would like the feeling of burning seems very unusual. The sentence itself could also suggest that someone likes the action of burning something. As your mind begins to question alternatives, it has sparked the interest of the reader to keep reading. 

Begin with dialogue

This can also have a similar effect on the reader as it can catch the reader off guard. An example of this can be seen in the opening lines of Rose Macauley’s, The Towers of Trezibond: ‘”Take my camel dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass’. The animal itself may surprise the reader in this sentence, as well as Aunt Dot’s previous actions. Using dialogue in your first line brings your readers straight into the action and provides them with wanting to figure out what is happening and why.

Setting the Mood and Atmosphere

Although this technique may seem simple, it can be really effective when used correctly. Louise Erdrich does this beautifully in Tracks: ‘We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.’ In this first sentence Louise Erdrich has managed to set the sombre mood perfectly by using the setting to help set the tone and atmosphere. This technique can work really well with the show don’t tell principle, as the sentence has given its readers an insight to what is to come.

Another suggestion could also be to revise what you like to read yourself. If you love a particular author like Lee Child or John Grisham, look at how they start their first lines. How did they interest you? Why did you want to read on? This technique also works if you are wanting to write a blog post or newsletter. If you follow several blogs, which article did you really enjoy and how did it start?

Once you have tried a few of these techniques, reflect on your work and see if any of them work for you. Remember the best way to get your writing noticed is to make your writing the best it can possibly be.

Follow me on Instagram @cbarkerwriting for writing tips on a daily basis.

Coffee Break: Dialogue

Welcome to second instalment of Coffee Break. In this instalment the main focus will be looking at how dialogue works within prose and what we can do to make our dialogue clearer and flow with ease.

Structuring Dialogue

Many of us sometimes question whether when a new person speaks, we should start a new line. Admittedly this should really be happening but sometimes, when we get lost in our character’s minds it can be tricky to decipher who is really speaking. I have recently read a novel by Ruth Ware who uses the confusion of her dialogue to give the reader a hint that the narrator might not be who they say they are (Review can be found here). This further highlights how the structure of dialogue can be confusing, but can be used to complement your plot.

“Try to make a break in your dialogue every six lines”

Chris Thurgar-Dawson

This quote was given to me by my lecturer at Teesside University who always used this as a rule of thumb. He explained how sometimes the reader needs to see a little bit of description whilst dialogue is still taking place. Consider this: Would you watch a play if the characters didn’t move and just read their lines? Would you even consider this a play at all? I know I wouldn’t. The reader can find out a lot about your characters in these descriptions. It could be that your character is saying one thing but their actions are saying something completely different.

Try this

When you are structuring your own dialogue, try to create a new line every time another character talks. By doing this your dialogue will be clear for the reader. Once you have your dialogue in your work clear on the page, go through the dialogue and add a little description every 6 lines. Again this will give your readers something else to consider and might sprinkle more depth to your existing characters.

Accents and Dialects

Sometimes including these within your work can add depths to your characters and give your readers a sense of purpose of where they are from and their upbringing. The important element to this however is making sure that your readers can still understand every detail. For example, where I live people love to eat Parmos. However if not everyone knows what a Parmo is then the concept of using this within language is lost.

Round of applause for anyone who does know what a Parmo is – they’re great.

Try this

Write a brief piece of dialogue about two people that get talking in a queue in the airport. These people can be from opposite places (ie. someone from Newcastle and someone from Cornwall) or you could have two people who are different ages (one could be in their teens and another could be an elderly man/woman). When you are writing this dialogue, try to think of their accent and how their perceptions of the world will come into play in their discussion.

Please let me know how you get on with these writing prompts, as I am interested to see what you have come up with! The next instalment of Coffee Break will involve a different writing focus but until then, sit back, enjoy a coffee and get writing!