“Station Eleven” by Emily Mandel

First of all, I would like to say this was a very lovely book. There are four main characters, two boys and two girls, and the story follows their lives before, during, and after the flu epidemic. It’s not an overwhelmingly violent or gruesome book, hardly touching upon the details of people’s deaths. Instead, it focuses more about the characters’ reactions to the epidemic, how it changed them and their lives, and I really appreciated that about it. My favorite character was Miranda, but I won’t tell you anything else about her, lest I give too much away.

This book definitely has an interesting style and a beautiful voice, which I can attribute to Mandel’s writing style. Let me give you a sneak peek from Jeevan’s point of view:

He reached Allan Gardens Park, more or less the halfway point, and this was where he found himself blinded by an unexpected joy. Arthur died, he told himself, you couldn’t save him, there’s nothing to be happy about. But there was, he was exhilarated, because he’d wondered all his life what his profession should be, and now he was certain, absolutely certain that he wanted to be a paramedic. (Mandel 11)

What a beautiful way to describe a character’s perspective. The first sentence shows what the character feels, joy, and how he felt by it: blinded. This does a good job of setting up his initial feelings, and then obstructing his joy within the next sentence. He reminded himself he just witnessed a death. He shouldn’t be feeling happy and yet he still does. This gives the reader more insight to Jeevan as a character, by not only establishing how happy he is but also showing the reader Jeevan’s past struggles in finding his purpose in life.

By giving his happiness an opposite like death, Mandel deepens the emotion and the paragraph. Opposites can do this because humans aren’t naturally feeling one emotion at once. Usually there are multiple conflicts going on in our life, which is why opposites work so well for a story. They make characters more interesting and life more real. It’s one thing to say I’m happy because I found my true living. It’s another to say I’m happy after I saw somebody died.

I’m not saying go ahead and kill someone every time your character feels happiness. But, try saying I’m happy even though I just broke my computer, or I’m sad even though I just won the lottery…opposites like these can definitely strengthen your characterization.

This is a good lesson on how to create emotion within your character:

1. Explain how (s)he feels it

2. Flush out the emotion – use a complexity or opposite reasoning on why the emotion shouldn’t exist

3. Explain why (s)he feels it

With these three reasons, you’re one step closer to creating a human being!

Mandel, Emily. Station Eleven. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. Print.

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