Monday, July 22, 2013

What Writers Can Learn from S. J. Kincaid's "Insignia"

I plucked S. J. Kincaid’s Insignia off the library shelf randomly the other day, was enticed by Veronica Roth’s blurb and the fact that it was published by Harper Collins’ imprint Katherine Tegan, and then proceeded to devour it in a few days (which is fast, considering that I’m working full time).

According to her blog, Kincaid apparently wrote something like eight novels before finding a publisher for Insignia. There’s always something a little sad about trunked novels, but with Insignia all the experience definitely paid off. It has the freshness and unassuming tone of a first novel, but with the structure of a bestseller, which I really hope it was.

Firstly, I loved the opening line: New town, new casino—same old plan.

I love this because it’s so perfectly concise. We have seven words—seven—and we understand exactly what Tom’s life has been like and what it seems like it’ll continue to be. Kincaid didn’t need to go on for a few paragraphs about how Tom journeyed from casino to casino, beating people in the Virtual Reality parlours. Instead, she gives us one fantastic sentence and then shows us, in a well constructed scene, the sort of life Tom leads.

The entire novel fits together like a puzzle. Every scene has a point. There’s always something to be gained or lost. There were never any extra details that just sorta got left behind.

That was the most impressive bit: everything tied in with everything else. Little details at the beginning of the story ended up relating to major plot points near the end. Certain scenes that seemed a little useless early on became necessary to later scenes. Eventually, whenever something seemed to be a little extra, I started watching for it to crop up again, and it always did.

All in all, I loved Insignia for its characters, and its plot, and its ideas, but I was most impressed by Kincaid’s structure. I’d definitely recommend the book to any sci-fi/dystopian fans, and to any YA writers in general who want to create intricate and interconnecting plot lines.

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