99 – A DIFFERENT TYPE OF PAGE TEST
This test comes from Ford Maddox Ford, again via the Campaign for the American Reader blog, but is a different way of assessing a book, and may well be apocryphal, as mentioned in his Page 99 Test post on Aug. 6, 2014, by R. John Williams, Yale professor and author of The Buddha in the Machine.*
In THIS test, Marshal Zeringue asks authors, ‘whether Page 99 reveals “the quality of the whole” about their books.’
That’s a little harder, and the authors who speak about their P. 99 implications have wide and varying opinions about it.
Why is it harder?
Because authors have somehow picked up the notion that they are supposed to let other people – interviewers, reviewers, readers – comment about their work, not themselves, or at least not themselves praising the book.
It means putting my opinions of my own work on record.
Specifically, whether this one page – 99 – is a good way to display the ‘quality’ of the whole.
Funny how that makes my stomach unhappy.
I much prefer the nice comments from reviewers (and usually have no trouble ignoring the less-nice ones).
I’m going to do it anyway
Never waste a good prompt is my motto.
Parental rules to my generation from our parents were meant to keep us from turning into the loud-mouthed, self-centered kid we could have become, because it would mean our parents hadn’t reared us correctly. ‘Children are meant to be seen, not heard,‘ is part and parcel of the same.
I don’t think these rules are followed quite as much any more, but, for example, I never knew my mother thought I had turned out okay until, as a grownup with three children back on a visit to Mexico, I happened to tell her I never felt I had met her exacting standards, and she replied something like, “That’s ridiculous! I brag about you to my friends all the time.”
That was the key. She never told us. And the eldest child does have the tendency to try to please, especially if she’s a girl. I think my four younger sisters figured it out, but they didn’t really leave home (Mexico City) and not come back, as I did.
We had no brothers; I suspect it would have been different, possibly worse, if we had.
I don’t think they meant anything bad by rearing us to enter polite society modestly, when it was our turn, but I was already the odd daughter, the one who wanted to be a scientist, and the nerve endings were exaggeratedly exposed.
Self-promotion is an absolute requirement for indie authors
Many of us aren’t so happy with that part of self-publishing, or maybe it’s only those of use who were older when we started writing.
Or even possibly I missed a lot of changes because, as a Person with ME/CFS, there was little energy left for me and my own concerns after the family got what I wanted them to have from me.
So, do I think that page 99 of PURGATORY reveals the quality of the whole book?
It reveals a lot of the main relationship: Andrew has come to visit for the first time, taking Kary up on a casual offer to drop in if he was in her neighborhood (rural New Hampshire vs. where they met in New York City on Night Talk). The only reason she got a bit of advance warning – less than a minute – was that, due to an overly-aggressive fan, she has had a gate installed at the bottom of her drive, and he had to speak into the CCTV and ask permission to ride his motorcycle up her mountain retreat; otherwise, he would have knocked at her door!
This scene is in Andrew’s point of view (pov), and we haven’t heard from him until this chapter after they said goodbye in NY at the end of Chapter 3.
In the intervening time, Kary was moved to take in the movie Roland, based on the medieval epic poem The Song of Roland, which was the reason he was on the talk show, and was blown away, whereas, being basically a recluse, she’d had no idea who he was when she met him. So their entire relationship is being torn down and replaced though neither of them know it.
The novel has many such accidentally-fraught encounters, each one showing the characters’ behavior under unexpected stressors. And how each character’s inner and outer lives complement each other.
Does this page 99 show off the whole?
It shows Kary’s self-control under extraordinary circumstances – a result of her medical training as a former physician: ‘Never let them see you uncertain.’
I know what is going to happen in scenes – I’m an extreme plotter – but not how, and it’s been fun to essentially listen to the characters to see what they do with my stage directions.
I love that this page has a good example of working characters – so many novel characters don’t seem to do much, but work takes a huge portion of most real people’s lives. They discuss their work – but expectations and reality are at odds.
And it lets a changing inanimate object, the fire in her fireplace, take one of its many mood-setting opportunities. I didn’t grow up with a working fireplace, but after I left home, my parents moved, and the new house’s massive fireplace was used in so many warm gatherings they were almost not complete without a fire (houses in Mexico City usually have neither heating nor air-conditioning, and can be chilly, especially in winter months).
It gives a nod to the relationship between writers and actors which is fundamental to the novels: each asks about the other’s work. She’s been writing earlier, he (and his feet) came from a morning of filming locally. Each is cagey, neither takes the bait to speak at length about themself.
In the whole, I think it does
represent the whole: two of the three main characters, a developing relationship, the settled homestead of the rooted character, the peripatetic nature of a working actor, and something of me as the author.
Not bad for one page!
If I am allowed to say so myself.
*I still recommend the test and the blog, but am sad to say SPAs are not welcome to apply, though it took some doing to find that out, as it isn’t mentioned.
If you’ve read Pride’s Children: PURGATORY, was there enough memorable about Andrew’s first visit that you remembered it?
Had you noticed the recurring fires?
Does this scene make you smile?
What do you think of books where no one seems to be employed?
Did you ever think anyone could make a movie out of The Song of Roland? Did it remind you at all of El Cantar del Mío Cid?