There are many reasons to love Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Least of which is that it’s a #1 NYT and International Bestseller and soon to be a movie. What’s important is that it works. The only thing I didn’t like was how long the love connection between Inan and Zélie lasted because I knew in my gut that it wouldn’t last and that the camp was going to be invaded. I didn’t want her to let her guard down and enjoy being loved because I knew it wouldn’t work out. But, I still think it worked for the story.
What’s more, there are tons of other things to want to emulate from this book. Here’s a look at how to write like Children of Blood and Bone.
This book moves. It feels like you’re on the ride of a lifetime. One minute you’re watching Zélie reanimate souls to protect them from a deadly fight on ships out at sea. The next, you’re grieving for the loss of her mother and wondering how a king could be so cruel. This story rarely lets you rest. There isn’t a lull where the characters explain the backstory. Adeyemi dramatizes every detail. There are stakes in every scene, and Zélie, Tzain, Amari, and Inan all want something and make choices in order to get it.
To keep the pacing of your own novel moving, make sure you don’t include scenes that don’t turn. Use backstory as a revelation to shift a scene. Dramatize every detail. Don’t tell the character movements unless you turn them into a scene with something at stake.
As I said, these characters all have wants and needs. They are clearly laid out and understandable. I cared for each character that died, no matter how small their role. No one was mentioned that didn’t need to be there, but each character felt real on the page no matter how brief their presence.
In your writing, ask yourself what role a character plays and if they are necessary to your story. Give everyone something to want. Show interactions with different characters realistically, as in, each character will act differently depending on who they interact with. And, give us something to empathize with.
I love this story’s commentary on the importance of black lives. Adeyemi used her voice to subtly protest against lives cut too short due to senseless violence from the police, the very people meant to protect and serve. Though I cannot understand her perspective, and she doesn’t owe me or anyone an explanation, Adeyemi’s book lays it out on the line. She shows you what it does to dehumanize people based on the color of their skin. Even if you didn’t want to read into the race issues, it’s still a book about black characters with whom you can’t help but fall in love. Representation is important. This book is important.
If you want a worldview shift, use an issue you care about as subtext. You don’t have to throw it in the reader’s face. Notice how Children of Blood and Bone never once mentions police brutality. Use your story to see the world the way you want to. Or, to give others insight into the world as you see it.
The world building in this story is fantastic. I could live inside Örisha. I love how intricately the details fit together. Magic is one of my favorite elements of books. This book’s interpretation, with gods granting magic, was an innovative way of looking at the trope. It made for a deeper understanding of the world itself.
It’s difficult to create a world that we don’t get to experience ourselves. I find it best to let the reader fill in certain details but to create the rules for yourself. That way, you know what makes your world function.
It would be painfully obvious if you break the rules of your own world, no matter what you create them to be. If the Dursley’s showed up at Hogwarts, for example, it would feel off. In The Walking Dead, which is based on a post-apocalyptic version of our world, they shouldn’t be able to use cars after two years or so. Though that bothers me, it is something the creators addressed, saying it would be boring if the main characters couldn’t travel via vehicle.
To create an intricate world for yourself, use details you see in your own world. It’s easier to picture an intergalactic space adventure if we can relate it back to something we understand. Fill out what you need to in order for the characters to inhabit the space, but don’t over-explain. And, lastly, study worlds you love in order to get a feel for how the author created their own.