I don’t give my reading heart away for free, see my sad tale here for why. As most of you know, it is also my principle never to read a series until it’s complete. My friends, Jim Butcher has changed that for me. It all started the weekend of my wedding, when my future bride’s maid and I were trolling the Border’s bookshelves, looking for new reads. Well, she was looking for new reads, I was looking for anything by any author I knew wouldn’t let me down.

Somewhere in the sc-fi/fantasy section she asked, “Have you ever read Jim Butcher?”

Patricia Wrede had a new book out, Thirteenth Child, and I was pondering getting it. “No, I–”

Suddenly I was snatched up in a whirl-wind of enthusiasm that is not my friend’s normal energy level, and cycloned over to a set of books for a grand choice between picking a book out of the series, or dying at her hands. I chose, “Dead Beat” the seventh in this series, and planned never on reading it.

Until she flipped it over and read the back cover to me, and what a back cover it was. It summed the whole story up, but made it sound sizzling and exciting, in two paragraphs! Most books I see have a great big picture of the author on the back. >_>

Fascinated, I flipped it open to the first page. A great opening sentence welcomed me, followed by a great first paragraph, followed by a great first page.

I read the whole book in eight solid hours. I went back and bought every available one the next day.

It begs the question though, what worked for him? What was so great about Jim Butcher it broke through my trust issues?

The book had a great back cover.

As mentioned before. Since the back cover is often used as an example of how query letters should be written, keep this in mind when you tap yours out. When I flipped that first book over, I was given an instant, fantastic overview of his plot, and the plot was good. I know, you don’t have much say over it, but this was step one of my transformation. All you authors who replace the back cover with an enormous picture of yourself, keep that in mind.

Internal monologue to die for.

Since you ought to know that a great hook is one of the key elements to landing readers, agents, publishers, and everything else in the writing world, I will not point out how fabulous his hooks are. I’ll just point you to this post here so you can make yours just as fabulous.

Jim Butcher writes his stories in first person. Normally I don’t care for first person, but Jim Butcher does first person so well, he makes third person feel lifeless and empty when you switch back. One of the keys to this is his internal monologue.

Harry Dresden’s voice colors the entire book. The details he notices about the world around him are noticed because he’s thinking about it. He came to be looking at that rug on the floor through some natural thought. He thinks about the characters he meets, and all the things he sees are colored with Harry Dresden tinted glasses.

I love it. I love how I can hear Harry’s voice through the whole book, and that voice in turn becomes my voice.

Detailed Research

Harry Dresden knows what he’s talking about, whenever he speaks of the supernatural. Every time he mentions a werewolf, he talks about which specific species. It’s not just magic, but what kind of magic. Harry Dresden speaks with such authority on magic, you have no doubt it’s real.

I shudder to think how many thousands of hours Jim Butcher spent with a notebook, trying to work out exactly how magic feels, or how many hours on the internet looking up the technical name for seeing the future. It is definitely one of the strongest features of the book though.

I think we writers can learn a lot from reading books like this, by figuring out exactly what part of the books work. Share with me a little. Who is your favorite fiction author, and what works for you? What can we take away from that book?

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