One doesn’t read Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL. One devours it! In my case, I devoured it through my ears by listening to the fantastic audiobook version read by Julia Whelan and Kirby Heyborne. I could not put it down, resulting in extra walks and a cleaner apartment than I’ve seen in months. Win!
I haven’t felt that needfulness to finish a book in too long.
As a writer, I found a zillion things to admire but here are my top ten writerly takeaways from Flynn’s novel:
- PLOT: GONE GIRL is a thriller about Amy Dunne, a privileged woman who mysteriously disappears. Her husband Nick Dunne is thrown into a murder investigation starring himself as the major suspect. Flynn does a number of things to establish the plot then flips it on its head so that we re-examine the foundation of events she originally laid out, to wonderful effect.
- BEGINNING PAGES: I tend to like books that suck me in right away with action. This one sucked me right in with straight-forward creepiness–Nick’s creepy thought process about his wife’s brain and head.
- MAIN CHARACTERS: Amy and Nick Dunne were thoroughly-articulated, well-rounded characters. Flynn mastered each character’s voice as a baseline but then also made each voice change a bit in situations of duress. Each of these characters was morally-complex. Because of this, right up to the story’s climax, I found myself delightfully wondering what each character really had done or would decide to do.
- SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: From Amy’s overly-affectionate parents with their Amazing Amy book series about a perfect little girl to Nick’s close then strained relationship with his sister Go (Margo), I got the feeling the supporting characters were just as developed in Flynn’s mind as the main characters, even if they didn’t get as much screen time.
- POINT OF VIEW: When I read books, I like to ask myself what other ‘camera angles’ the author could have ‘filmed’ with. I feel Flynn nailed this. GONE GIRL has a cinematic quality for me (and yay, it’s about to be a movie with Rosumund Pike and Ben Affleck). We hear from Nick’s first-person point of view as well as Amy’s, thanks to a series of diary posts and other devices. I liked how well Flynn switched between views because that can feel like an intimidating thing to do as a writer.
- SETTING OR WORLD-BUILDING: I noticed that the Mississippi neighborhood was described by each spouse’s differing point of view. This was an awesome use of contrast to describe setting. Flynn made it seem easy. I have since tried to write a scene this way, and it is very difficult to do!
- MOOD & PACING: Flynn also used contrast in setting to elevate mood. New York provided contrast with life in a smaller town near the Mississippi River, for example. She also achieved a wonderful mood of sarcasm, by articulating her characters’ perspectives so well. I noticed the pacing was steady with only slight uptakes, which allowed me to be more enthralled. I lost myself as the story gradually but faithfully built in suspense.
- ENDING: Endings have to be talked of vaguely, of course, to avoid spoilers. I will say I loved Flynn’s choice of ending, because while it was surprising to me, I could reflect on Nick and Amy’s respective characters and believe it as an endpoint consistent with all I’d been told about them. Again, not an easy thing to pull off, surprise and consistency together!
- LANGUAGE: Gillian Flynn writes so descriptively overall but in particular, I noticed she rarely stops and explains. Her descriptive language is part of the action and story, with few exceptions. Not the biggest deal, but I found the level of profanity distracting. I feel writers can use less and still capture who characters are. For me, it got pretty old. This was the only aspect of the writing that bugged.
- QUIRK FACTOR: I always like to see quirky stuff unique to a story. After all, this is basically a murder mystery like many murder mysteries before it. The quirky things that sucked me in were a thousand well-articulated mannerisms, an interesting twist on treasure hunts, the hilarious and formative Amazing Amy issue Amy Dunne grew up with in her household, and other clues to the plot which I shall not spoil.
Did you nerd out over GONE GIRL, too? Please share what you thought–whether it’s about writing or not, I’m sure I’ll appreciate it!