Redhead by the Side of the Road

I always think you can map a book to two axes: focus and travel.

The more you move along one axis, the less you move along the other. So if your story is packed full of excitement and plot twists (travel) there is less time to explore character (focus).

Ann Tyler’s books provide a good illustration of this. While many books mentioned on this site contain a cast of thousands and a span of light years and centuries, her books have a much narrower focus.

I love Ann Tyler’s books, though I haven’t read one in a long time. I started reading Redhead by the Side of the Road (sponsored link) on a long journey last week and finished it in two sittings. The story deals with one man living in a basement apartment. It rarely moves beyond that setting, and that’s a necessary part of its charm.

It’s all about breadth v depth. Both are worth exploring when writing. Both lead to fascinating books. But don’t try and do both at the same time.


  1. Christine Emmerson says:

    Love Anne Tyler’s books. This one recommended by someone at my book club. Unfortunately she let the cat out of the bag about the redhead. Still enjoyed it, though.


    1. She’s a great writer!


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