I cannot say enough, as a writer, that the way writers use language is extremely important.
Understanding how to use language is critical to the success of being a writer. If a writer does not have command over language, then, the writer will have a challenging time in getting others to believe his or her work or at least come to the conclusion of respecting his or her work.
In EL James new book, Grey, from my perspective, James missed the mark. James had the opportunity to rise to the occasion in creating a stronger work by introducing Christian Grey’s perspective on his budding relationship with Anastasia Steele. I was quite intrigued in how James would write Grey. When I woke up Tuesday morning and saw my e-book copy on my Kindle, I was excited to read to see how James handle Christian’s story from a technical, stylistic, and idea approach.
After completing the book, the most blaring criticism I have about Grey is that the way James uses language in creating Christian Grey’s first point of view which short changes the entire book…and actually cripples the entire Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy concerning the creation of Christian Grey.
James writers 27 year old Christian Grey as a brooding adolescent trapped inside a man’s body. Throughout the book, I see him as an angry child—not an angry man about his childhood. The crafting of how James has her character use language cripples even Christian Grey’s accomplishments as being CEO of his company. The only time we get an adult version of Christian is when he puts on his professional game face…and when he first seduces Anastasia. Yet, his own thoughts are very childish and very childlike which are consistent throughout the story. In order to create a childish and childlike person, a writer must have a firm grip on how to craft those characteristics in a character without compromising the integrity of the character. In the FSOG trilogy, through Ana’s eyes and other characters’ eyes, Christian is loved and is not the monster that he believes that he is. In Grey, James do not illustrate how Christian sees himself as a monster. She creates Christian having superficial thoughts about how he looks into the mirror and sees himself as a monster, but she doesn’t interweave quite well throughout the book his self-loathing. This is when first point of view can become a problem for a writer. First point of view can become a crush for a writer, and at the same time, a point of view that it is difficult for the writer to execute. First point of view is a limited point of view, and if writers use first point of view, they have to really think out how the entire book is going to be played out. This point of view is challenging because the difficulty arises in how one is going to execute story by having one character tell the story—and when done adequately, the first point of view protagonist only can tell what is going on around him/her. In order to give broader spectrum or scope to other characters, the first point of view protagonist would have to be very observant on human nature/character.
And that’s the problem with Grey. In what Christian tells Ana in the first FSOG trilogy and in Grey, he tells her, “Business is all about people, Miss Steele, and I’m very good at judging people. I know how they tick, what makes them flourish, what doesn’t, what inspires them, and how to incentivize them. I employ an exceptional team, and I reward them well” (Kindle e-book, Location 179—1%). However, James herself does not execute this well in Grey. Readers see Christian interacting with his staff and people…but we don’t see his acute judgment or observations about people. This is a huge part of where I believe readers should see Christian’s maturity—in his interactions with his staff and other people. What else lacks is how we don’t see specks of maturity in the BDMS lifestyle that Christian participates in. If anything, he uses the lifestyle to further his agenda in punishing women. Yes, he understands the rules, and he is intelligent enough to process and read Anastasia to where she eases her reservations about being his submissive, but the way James writes Christian concerning how he acts to the lifestyle, the lifestyle he participates and his maturity are a ill match. While I was reading, it was confusing to me but not in the confusion that you feel directly from the character. Due to lack of craft on James’s part, I was confused because the way Christian was wrote and what he participated in did not have that rhythm and/or flow. Instead, his childish behavior caricatures the BDSM lifestyle.
After reading the trilogy, from Ana’s descriptions of Christian, he is much more of a dark knight…and there is a certain maturity about him. Yet, when I read Grey, I was not impressed. I am not saying James cannot have Christian being childish or childlike, but ¾ of the book read that way to me. Even though James is no Toni Morrison or Virginia Woolf, she wrote a better Christian by having Ana characterizing him by her own thoughts in how she interpreted Christian’s behavior. What I wanted was for James to parallel Christian’s thoughts in Grey in more align with how Ana sees him in FSOG trilogy. I wanted the balance of him being more egotistical paired with the self-loathing. Yet, due to making him overall immature, I don’t see the dark knight at all. I see someone who is more sociopathic in tendencies than damaged.
However, the remaining ¼ of the novel…is better than the beginning ¾. Why is that?
Well, the remaining ¼ of the novel had original ideas, and the language was a little better. Yet, because James filled in what actions Christian took to get a second chance with Ana, it made the book more interesting. The mystery of not knowing what Christian did to want to get Anna back saves somewhat of the plotline, but it does not completely make up for the lackluster of the overall book.
Basically, James did not do a psychological stylistic Christian well because she doesn’t have the hold how to use language as a technique. This is why the book is lacking, and this is why I am extremely disappointed with this book. What I am also disappointed by is that she has Christian as a love struck teenager…operating in an adult body. If you are going to write a character like this, it is better be convincing, and I wasn’t convinced.
The dark knight that I liked in the previous three books was made in to chump change by one book that is from his perspective.
I would love to see if James continues with two other books explaining Christian more.
Below, I wrote an Amazon.com review that pretty much tells you my initial impressions of the book.
I read EL James’s Fifty Shades of trilogy in last than two weeks before I saw the film. I can see why readers/watchers are intrigued with this story. I paraphrase James in an interview for the movie, her story is a fairy tale with a kinky twist.
The main reason I kept reading Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freedom is because of Christian Grey. For me, dark characters are intriguing due to their motivations and their psyche. I wanted to further know why Christian felt like he had to become a Dominant and his need for control.
I was quite excited when news reported that a new EL James novel would debut. I was interested in how James would portray Christian’s character from his point of view. I am always interested in, not only in writers writing a good story, but how writers write a good story.
The first 3/4 of the book are not good due to the type of language James uses in regards of having Christian tell his story. Stylistically, Christian’s point of view reminded me of Ana’s first point of view. The way James uses language doesn’t support Christian’s characteristics. The way James characterizes Christian in his first point of view makes him a very weak character. What was missing for me is a fine balance of James trying to show Christian being the Master of his Universe and his vulnerability, hurt, and anger in what his mother did. What crippled 3/4 of the novel is having him behave like a love struck fool and adolescent. The combination is brutal on someone who is supposed to have it somewhat together.
Christian also uses the same words as Ana’s does in the first book. “Heady,” comes to mind. As a writer myself, when you develop characters, they must have their own language…and it must be own in the book. Christian’s language was not own, and the type of language James uses to characterize him, it actually puts the character off. James does too much of Christian behaving like an adolescent, teenage, childish, and childlike character that she doesn’t write it in a dignified manner. Bottom line, the juvenile, immature way she characterizes Christian made him come off as a creepy sociopath instead of someone in agonizing anguish about what haunts him.
The only part of the book that rises to any surface of the water is the last 1/4 of the book where you see Christian really having an issue with what he has done. Then, I saw some maturity. However, I wished that more of the language matched with how he was characterized. The lack of how she uses language to characterize the protagonist weakens his overall image from prior three books. It is sad that through Ana’s eyes, I saw Christian as a stronger character than in the way James exposes him in Grey.