Reading like a Writer | Landline


Join me as I explore books that didn’t meet my expectations – for better or worse. Spoilers, obvi.


I got Landline in the first Riot Reads Quarterly package.

First: this book is awesome. It’s unique but familiar, engaging without being over-the-top. I mean, there is a magical yellow phone that allows the protagonist to talk to her now-husband from the past. That could go sideways and crazy in the hands of a less skilled author, but Rowell knows when to ramp up and when to reign in.

There are many things I loved about this book, but the one I’ll talk about today is Rowell’s use of secondary characters.

A lot of the action centers around Georgie and Neal as they converse and dissect their relationship. What makes the conflict work (and frankly, keeps it light-hearted) is how other characters intersect its trajectory. Take Georgie’s family: her mother comes across as a dog-obsessed ditz and her sister is a boy-crazy teen. Those initial presentations and assessments get stripped away throughout the novel. With the reveal that the pizza guy Heather’s been dressing to impress is a pizza girl, we also learn that their mother is more observant than the sisters imagine. These are quietly beautiful, charming scenes in how they play out, and they add another layer to the book. I wanted to go back and reread all the family interactions to see just how much the mother grasped about her daughters’ relationships and analyze the conversations Heather and Georgie had about love and loyalty.

Reading like a writer lesson: Your characters are people. They have histories and motivations. While their main purpose may be to enact some plot device, they can do that in a way that layers another perspective for the characters or the piece itself. Secondary characters don’t have to be center stage, but they should engage the reader and the other elements of the manuscript.

Disagree? Want to know more? Leave a comment and let me know!

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