Despite having a TBR list large enough to swallow me whole, if a fellow bookworm suggests a book series, I’m more likely than not to drop everything to pick up the one s/he mentioned. If a fellow creative thought of me and took the time to let me know, I should at least give the book a try, right?
Most recently, Haley M. Pettit from Whatever Bright Things recommended The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. Plus, the not-so subtle hints of Cait from Paper Fury on her Instagram completely piqued my curiosity to check out the entire series of four from the library. And I found myself awash in a tsunami of feels. From the moment I opened The Raven Boys to the time I finally closed The Raven King, I was hooked. And weeks later, my brain’s still on hiatus.
Claws, Beaks, Feathers, & Hearts
When we find ourselves enthralled in a book, we as writers should take every opportunity to figure out what draws us to these books in order to evoke the same magic in our own stories. The magic of The Raven Cycle (are you taking notes? You should be) comes from two major sources — the characters and the story’s circles.
From the main cast of four Raven boys and a sensible Blue to the supporting characters, like Orla, Roger Malory, and Jesse Dittley, each one was distinct. Memorable. Relatable. In some way, shape, or form, I felt like I knew these characters.
When we write, we must step outside of stereotypes and make characters real. That may sound simple, but it’s easier to create the nice guy who will never get the girl in comparison to the nice guy who struggles with his feelings for the the girl while fighting the doubts he’s lived with since childhood because of emotional trauma he had at school. Do you see where I’m coming from?
We need complex characters. Like Ronan. *pauses to fangirl for an hour* Okay, I’m back. But on a serious note, he’s a great example. Yes, he’s rough around the edges. Sure, as readers, we can tell he must’ve had a “rough past.” And he does. BUT that’s not what defines him. He is a living, breathing person with worries, fears, people to protect, crushes to fall in love with. You can see pieces of him and know that these traits could be part of the real world even though he’s a mystical creature, as well.
In addition to having realistic characters, extraordinary stories create circles. This concept refers to the first chapter setting up readers for the last chapter and to Chekhov’s Gun technique. Every part should have a connection to another in the story. And that one to another. Then that to another. And another. There should be so many threads woven throughout the story that, by the end, your readers cannot see the one without seeing the other. And this is exactly what blew my mind ten times over in The Raven Cycle.
In our own writing, this may not happen during the first draft and possibly several drafts after. But the point is to find the one connection first. Once you’ve established one, you can create another and continue weaving from there.
To stay spoiler-free, I will not reveal any of these circles from The Raven Cycle, but I will say that every character’s journey started somewhere and each will find that that was where they were meant to be. BOOM. And that’s exactly what cracked my heart in two and wove it back together again.
Did / will you read The Raven Cycle? What intrigues you most about the series? Let me know in the comments, lovely!