Mark de Castrique was the guest speaker Monday night at the February meeting of Rocky River Readers Book Club at Rocky River Presbyterian Church. I heard him speak at the public library in Mint Hill, North Carolina two or three years ago and was delighted for the opportunity to hear him speak again.
The book club’s book this month was one of Mr. de Castrique’s earlier books, The Fitzgerald Ruse. F. Scott Fitzgerald spent time at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, so that is the novel’s connection with Mr. Fitzgerald. Mr. de Castrique has a talent for taking a tidbit of a true story and weaving a fictionalized story around it using the back drop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He is a native of Hendersonville, North Carolina, so he has a familiarity and understanding of the region and its wealth of stories.
Since I am a writer and an aspiring novelist, I was particularly interested in hearing Mr. de Castrique from a writer’s point of view. He offered a number of pointers for those of us who wish to improve our fiction writing skills. Some I have heard before but it is always helpful to hear them again.
1. Write what you know.
2. Avoid information dumps.
3. Have a character ask questions in order to get information conveyed.
4. Add background information here and there in the book.
5. If I, as the author, am not interested in what happens to my characters, that’s a good indication that readers won’t care what happens to them either.
6. Hang in there and write what you can each day. That page or two per day will eventually be a 400-page manuscript.
7. Every book has a theme. You might not know what the theme is when you begin, but you should know in the end. At that time, you can go back and add foreshadowing and details that reinforce the theme.
8. No one wants to be preached to in a novel.
9. Life doesn’t have to make sense, but a novel must make sense.
10. One reason people like fiction is because it has to be plausible. Life isn’t always plausible.
If you haven’t read any of Mark de Castrique’s books, I highly recommend that you give them a try. You will be entertained while learning something about the rich history of the mountains of North Carolina.