Cheryllynn Dyess’s “The Soul Maker”

Ever read a story and say to yourself, “Wow! That’s how it’s done!”?

I get exhilarated when I discover a new author.

Let me clarify. There are lots of people out there writing books. In my opinion, few of them are worth reading (I’m a writing snob. There, I’ve said it).

But once in a great while I encounter some writing that so pulls me into its story, calls me into the story’s mythos so completely that my pulse quickens, my eyes open wider, my breaths deepen, … When readers have a physiologic reaction to your writing, you’ve arrived.

Such a story is Cheryllynn Dyess‘s The Soul Maker in Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 3.

The Soul Maker is a wonderful story because it combines great storytelling – do you have an interesting story to tell? – with great storycrafting – can you tell that story in an interesting way?

I like it because…
The first line is Each night the family would gather around the large wooden table in front of the fireplace in the old wooden home. and in a longer story would qualify for a great opening line. Night, gather, large, old – all words that create both atmosphere and mood. The reader feels the scene without realizing they’re doing so. The scene is nicely visualized in a minimum of words. Beautiful.

The rest of the first paragraph provides emotional and situational content and again, with a minimum of words, all of which left me thinking My god can this woman write!

All the above are storycrafting techniques and well done. The story is also a gem (excellent storytelling) and falls into what I call science fantasy. The first paragraph and the publication tilted me towards science fiction or fantasy as genres. Few authors blend both well.

That excellent blending comes from Dyess’s shifting the story’s venue while keeping the reader engaged. Often writers will shift a story’s venue and the shift is so abrupt readers have to stop, back up, reread, scratch their heads, and basically lose interest in the story.

Not so in The Soul Maker. What I thought a wonderful fantasy piece makes a delightful turn from the second to third paragraphs: The eldest, Trey, looked at his siblings. “Did you get your chores done today?” They all nodded. “Good. You know this is the year of souls and father will be especially busy. We must help so he is not overworked.”
Trist, the second youngest at age twelve, looked to his brother.
(click for a two line jump into science fantasy)

Those two sentences concluding The Soul Maker‘s second paragraph essentially say, “Get ready, hang on, we’re going for a ride.”

Another major plus (to me) is the tone and style are reminiscent of Loren Eiseley‘s writing (his work satisfies on many levels).

Finally, The Soul Maker concludes with a hint at the circle of life, a great theme in much great literature and does it in just under ten pages.

Writers, read this woman. You can learn a lot.

Readers, enjoy the story and look for more from her. I am.