I’m starting a series called “Learn From Your Reading,” in which I will talk about what writers can learn from reading the works of other authors. I firmly believe that all writers should be readers, and more importantly, should be able to critically assess the work of other writers to figure out what works well in those books or what doesn’t. While I may do book reviews at a later time, this isn’t a review. It’s a lesson in what you can learn from I’ve read. Since I recently finished reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, I’m going to start with it.
There are so many things that Zafon does well that I could talk about, like characterization and , but he thing I think that sets him apart the most, though, is his parallel plot structure. Of course he isn’t the first writer to do it, but I think that the does it particularly well.
Dictionary.com defines parallelism as “the repetition of a syntactic construction in successive sentences for rhetorical effect.” That’s the definition I learned in high school English, and then again in college when we studied rhetorical tropes. On a syntactic level, parallelism is the repetition of key elements, such as sounds or phrases, ordered to create a rhythm in the flow of the words. The repetition and rhythm then help audiences remember points and help create a sense of “rightness” with the words of the text because they flow in the pattern, but I don’t want to talk about the syntactic level. I want to focus on parallelism on a larger scale: that of the entire story.
This means that elements of the story as a whole repeat and create a rhythm and help readers become more engaged in the story and have that feeling of “rightness” in the end. In terms of plot, it can create a sense of inevitability. Zafon is a master of creating this sense of “rightness.”
I don’t want to spoil the book because I want you to read it, so I’m going to try to be less specific. No matter what his characters go through, his plot is constructed in a way that his plot points are repeated with slight variations, and this makes readers feel that everything happens the way it is meant to happen. This then plays into the book’s large themes of fate and consequence.
The Shadow of the Wind is fantastical and comfortable at the same time. It’s as if as you read, you say, “Of course. It has to happen that way. The reason is the way Zafon uses repetition. It puts readers at ease by bringing up these points from before. As you take in the book, you think, “Oh, I remember something about that.” This makes the story flow on a subconscious level that help readers fall into the comfortable patterns of the book, and it makes it difficult to put it down.
I definitely recommend that writers read The Shadow of the Wind. Not only is it a fun, interesting read, but it will teach you a lot about creative stories, characterization, and how to appropriately handle back story without boring readers. The most unique thing, however, is the way writers can learn a lot about how to make your readers comfortable while keeping them engaged and surprised at the same time.
Have you read this book? Do you have thoughts on parallelism? Leave a comment.