The Diana Wynne Jones Experience

Last week I posted the first in this two-post series on How to Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book and What Your Fantastic Journey Along the Way May Look Like, in honor of March Magics (celebrating Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett).

Last week’s was the how, and I now invite you to examine the what.

Part the Second:

What Your Fantastic Journey Along the Way May Look Like

Please note that word: “may.”

May is a word which can mean either (a) one of the 12 months of the year, i.e. as it appears in “May Day” which is May 1st and happens to be the birthday of Michael Fisher from Howl’s Moving Castle, for instance, or (b) “might possibly, perhaps, at certain times or for certain people, or, you know, just generally maybe; so don’t quote me on this because it might be different, dontcha know”. I’m referring, in case there was any doubt, to the latter.

In other words, everyone’s Diana Wynne Jones Experience will vary, naturally, as will the individual journeys of each reader consuming each of her books, which is how it should be.

That being said, here are some basic guidelines of some things you may (there’s that word again…) be likely to find or feel in the course of reading a DWJ book.

a map of Fantasyland from DWJ’s “Tough Guide to Fantasyland” seemed appropriate to put here

A book like you’ve never read before

No matter what you think of the story, or which one it is that you read (despite them all being different than each other) this one’s pretty much a guarantee.

All the humor

These books are funny, I tell you. DWJ has a unique brand of humor in her books which I’m unable to describe, but I absolutely love it, whatever it is.

Mind-bending plot twists

Plot twists, surprises, and reveals, that are entirely mind-boggling and CHANGE EVERYTHING. This often results in the need to immediately re-read the book when you finish. (This isΒ  good sign. It means you’re reading it right.)

Things/animals/items which are not what they seem (and might even be people)

This is a big one. Almost nothing in these books are what they appear to be. Cats and dogs? Eh, they might not be what they seem… A piece of furniture? It could be something else. A character you just met? They could turn out to be totally the opposite of what you thought they were. And that’s one of the most fun things about these books! Possibilities are absolutely endless and keep you on your toes.

Genre? What genre?

Most of these books are hard to pinpoint exactly where they fall in the genre pigeonholes. “Fantasy” is generally the broadest one they fit, but after that… well, you’re on your own. There will be dashes of sci-fi, contemporary, historical/time-travel… and they’re all done in a new way and defy categorization. She has, in effect, created her own genre, which is “Diana Wynne Jones”. (I think we writers could learn from this.)

Multi-worlds, magic, and fantasy like no other

These are self-explanatory. The multi-worlds aren’t always present, but multiple words do feature in more than a few of the books, and are always fascinating. Magic and various fantasy elements usually play key roles in the story and are very original and SO interesting.

Chaos

Nobody does chaos quite like Diana Wynne Jones. She’s excellent at it. Magical chaos, family chaos, just general chaotic explosions of THINGS happening all at once and confusingly and hilariously.

Fascinating character-growth and insight into human nature

Often, these books will feature a young hero or heroine who is being used by some unpleasant acquaintance or relative, for some purpose they don’t understand, and they don’t realize because they’re used to it; they find it out in the course of the story and become their own person, and end up doing the right thing in the end. But the way all of these characters are . . . these books SHOW me things about people, and it’s fascinating and so informative.

The best way to learn things about this confusing thing we call life, is accidentally through awesome fiction. ❀

Families (see Chaos)

You don’t see entire families of characters involved in books much these days, which is a shame. DWJ books often involve not only a hero or heroine but often their entire family… and sometime extended family too. This is not only fun but can be amusing as well, and the dynamics are fabulous.

It may make you want to eat sandwiches

I’ve no idea why, but when the characters eat sandwiches or crumpets or something, it makes me WANT TO EAT SOMETHING LIKE THAT RIGHT AWAY. I have been known to spontaneously make cucumber sandwiches or stop reading just to bake shortbread cookies in the middle of the book. (Note: I don’t cook. Ever. [Well. Hardly ever.] So this is extreme.)

How you feel…

At the beginning:

Well. What a fascinating/unique opening. WHAT am I reading?

In the first third or so:

This book is so… strange… and seemingly random… But I’m hooked anyway! So much strange… This is funny. πŸ˜€ What is going on? I’ve never read a book like this; my brain cannot compute, but I’m too busy laughing or wondering where this is headed to notice.

Halfway through:

You may realize at this point that as strange as the beginning started out, you suddenly realize you’re UTTERLY CAPTURED by this book and that everything feels perfectly normal to you and makes perfect sense. And also that you’re entirely attached to the characters and story and don’t want it to end.

During the climactic ending parts:

  • EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING. WHAT.
  • HOW ON EARTH (OR QUITE LIKELY OFF OF IT) IS DIANA WYNNE JONES GOING TO WRAP ALL THESE MESSES UP IN THE LAST TINY FEW PAGES??
  • DON’T END, BOOK, I WANT TO READ YOU FOREVER.
  • PLEASE END BECAUSE I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENNNNS!
  • WUT. PLOT TWIST. O_O

How you feel when it’s over:

  • ALSKJDFLKDJ!!! ❀ Wait… what about…?? WHAT HAPPENED THERE? *mind readjusts* *works out twists* Oh. O_O EEE!! ^_^ But wait… Let me go back…
  • A feeling of joy or elation and a general feeling of extreme well-being toward the book, mixed possibly with confusion on some little point or a feeling that it ended a little two quickly, which instead of causing outright discontent, has a tendency to make you think about the book for hours (and sometimes days) after finishing.
  • I LOVED IT. I need to read it again. NOW. THIS INSTANT.

On that note…

Regarding Re-Reading

Please note that DWJ books are always even better on the second round. You will never catch everything the first time because there are so many layers and twists. The second time will be even richer, since now you know all the plot twists and what everything actually MEANS. It will, of course, lack the wonder of first-time-discovery* but will be full of delightful details and a better understanding/appreciation of it.

*Not always; I’ve sometimes re-read only to discover that I forgot almost entirely about some aspect, and got to re-experience it a second time almost like the first!

So what are you waiting for?

If you’ve never read a book by Diana Wynne Jones, you’d best get started at once so that you can get to that re-reading… (Since one can presumably only re-read a book after one has read it the first time… unless there’s time travel or some sort of magical confusion involved, of course. With DWJ, either option is quite likely.)

With this handy guide to How to Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book at hand, I wish you joy in discovering or re-discovering her works.

(If you need some ideas of where to start, I suggest Howl’s Moving Castle, or glancing at this list of many DWJ books that I’ve read, with some thoughts on each. I’ve also started a DWJ Project page on my book blog which I plan to add to at some point.)

You know what I think we should do now?

I know exactly what we should do.

In the words of a certain charming wizard (in more ways than one) from Howl’s Moving Castle:

“I think we ought to live happily ever after”

So let’s do that, you and I, with our Diana Wynne Jones books. πŸ™‚

As said wizard added, “It should be hair-raising.”

Won’t it just.

I can’t wait. ^_^ I hope you can’t either.

(Thank you for reading. <3)

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23 thoughts on “The Diana Wynne Jones Experience

  1. Pingback: (Part 1) How to Read a Diana Wynne Jones Book

  2. Things/people that are not what they seem… It has just hit me that this is a fantastic way to add uniqueness into a story. When, for example, a scarecrow is not actually a scarecrow but something else, it adds a whole new dimension to a story. Hmmm… *turns on brain box* hmmmm…
    I loved this two-part “series”! It makes me want to read more Diana Wynne Jones books!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, right? It’s just brilliant, and definitely can get the mind wheels turning! Yess, when a scarecrow is not a scarecrow, a fire is not a fire, a castle is not even a castle, a dog is not a dog… it really shakes things up. XD Turning things upside down is a great trick for writers! I really think we can learn a lot from DWJ’s out-of-the-box brilliance. πŸ™‚

      Thank you so much, Abbey! And if it made you want to read more, then it’s done its job. πŸ˜‰

      Like

  3. EEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! I’ve literally been waiting all day for this post and the second I saw it appear in my inbox I DEVOURED IT. It was just as perfectly fantastic as the first post. I JUST WANT TO HUG THESE POSTS TIL THE END OF TIME.

    Your definition of May at the beginning had me genuinely laughing out loud. You’re so the greatest! xD

    I was nodding along to every. single. point you made. I’ve only read 4 DWJ books, but they ALL have these elements/experiences, and it’s so great! I just want to comment on EVERY SINGLE THING but that would take ages… But but but…ALL THE THINGS. Her books are DEFINITELY like things I’ve never read before. o.o And full of sooo much humor and alllll the plot twists (I mean, THOSE ENDINGS) and things are most certainly never what they seem. And so much YES to the question of genres. I love how you said Diana Wynne Jones IS a genre herself. YOU’RE RIGHT. That is the besssst!

    Your points on how each part makes us feel is SO ACCURATE I’M DYING. That is PRECISELY how I felt during my first read of HMC, and Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways as well. But HMC especially since it was my first DWJ book and I had no clue what I was getting myself into. xD

    And I 100% agree about rereadings! I honestly think I enjoyed reading HMC for the second time even more than the first! That takes a very, VERY special book to do that! Because, ya know, first time reads are magical. But DWJ somehow made a whole new magic for rereads! Ugh. She was so brilliant! Speaking of brilliant…

    THIS WHOLE POST!!!!!!! My heart literally did a THING when you quoted Howl’s happily ever after line. Now I reeeeally want to reread HMC but but but so many books to read, so little time! D:

    But this post was EVERYTHING. Both of these DWJ posts are honest to goodness some of my favorite Celti posts (and some of my favorite posts in GENERAL) of ever!!! ❀ ❀ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • D’aww, that is so sweet you were waiting for it! ^_^ You make my day, Lauri. EEP. ❀ I'M SO GLAD YOU ENJOYED THEM THOUGH! πŸ˜€

      Yep, a lot of them are rather common in these books, so I'm glad you were able to match them to ones you've read. And… *gasp* LAURI! You've only read 4?? YOU MUST GET ON THIS! (Heheheheh just kidding. XD)

      And I always find it amazing how I feel such similar things in her books, even when they're totally different! It does make it feel like a single genre. πŸ˜› Yep, HMC and/or the first DWJ book we read… definitely not clue what we're getting ourselves into. XD

      It does indeed take brilliant books to enjoy more the second time! So glad you did! πŸ˜€

      I knowww, there's not enough time… but rereading HMC is so worth it! ^_^ (But I know what you mean.) Your heart did a thing? How… erm… appropriate. XD

      OH MY GOODNESS YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY THE NICEST PERSON. THANK YOU SO MUUUUCH AND I'M SO HAPPY YOU LIKED THEMMM! ❀ ❀ ❀

      Like

  4. OH MY FREAKING GOSH THIS WAS (AND THE LAST ONE) THE BEST POST EVER AND I LOVE DIANA WYNNE JONES SO SO SO SO SO SO MUCH AND HOWL AND I HAVE ONLY READ A FEW OF HER BOOKS BUT I AM READING ALL OF THEM THIS YEAR!!!
    I HAVE READ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (STILL MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE!!!!! CASTLE IN THE AIR, HOUSE OF MANY WAYS, AUNT MARIA, AND JUST FINISHED DOGSBODY. UGH UGH UGH DOGSBODY WAS SO GOOD I WANTED TO DIE WHEN IT ENDED UGH UGH IGJAHDHSKJSHAHAUDHHAJAJYSGSVBAKKSIALAKKANXNBNCMVKVHSHAKAJAJSKALAA!!!!!Β‘!!!!!!!!!!!Β‘!!!!!!!!!!
    THIS WAS SUCH A GOOD POST UGH UGH UGH UGH UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • OH MY GOODNESS YOUR COMMENT MADE MY DAY, THANK YOU. XD DWJ IS AMAZING! I’M SO EXCITED YOU’RE READING THEM! HMC IS MY FAVORITE TOOOO! ❀ I HAVEN'T READ DOGSBODY YET BUT I NEEEEDS IT. Haha! *laughing* Your comment made me smile. πŸ™‚ Thanks so much! DWJ flailing is the best and I'm so glad you liked this post! ^_^

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is completely and utterly true and makes me want to go read a DWJ book. Alas, they’re all at home, and I can’t go to the library right now. 😦 Oh well.
    (Edit from almost-the-end of writing this comment: I just glanced up again and realized that I DO have a DWJ book with me! Not the one I really want, which would be one of the Howls, but it’ll do, assuming I don’t decide that I’d better finish my Echoes from the Edge reread.)

    Also, the family thing- that’s true! I didn’t really think of it much, but I think the family aspect is one of the reasons I love DWJ so much! I mean, occasionally the families are rather a mess, but in the better ones- like the Chrestomanci series, and even Sophie’s family to a degree- it’s wonderful.

    And YES to things not being what they seem and the plot twists and the chaos. And yet, oddly enough, DWJ’s books don’t leave you with the “Wait, what? I have no idea what just happened, even though I know it was AWESOME” feeling as much as some plot-twisty books do. Like, you may not know exactly how the ending worked the way it did? But you know it did work and there was a happily ever after and so you’re quite happy as you work out how it happened.

    One thing that I would add: at the beginning, depending on the book, you may be like “Am I supposed to like these people? Because I’m not quite sure I like these people.” Which is why I still haven’t finished the Dalemark quartet and I didn’t much care for Dark Lord of Derkholm. πŸ˜›

    Overall, wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay! I’m so glad it rang true for you! πŸ™‚ Which one do you have, btw? Hexwood, by any chance?

      Yep, the families are often a mess (see chaos) but it’s still really interesting that they’re IN there, unlike a lot of books, it seems. Yesss, the Chrestomanci family and even Sophie’s are great fun. πŸ˜€

      That’s TRUE, they don’t leave us with “I have no idea what happened” feelings! I mean, like you said, sometimes a little uncertainty about endings, but YES they end happily and work out and it’s just great. πŸ˜€ (Plot twists and chaos and things being more than they seem though. <3)

      Ohhh, yes, that's so true! I forgot to mention that one. Often times it IS hard to figure out exactly who's good and who's not. XD Complex characters and all. Especially in Dalemark and Aunt Maria and stuff. *nods* Where in the Dalemark Quartet are you? The last one's AMAAAAZING because it has time travel and thiiiings. πŸ˜€ I can kind of see where you're coming from on Dark Lord of Derkholm, but have you tried reading it again? Because I actually really liked the characters. πŸ˜› Which ones did you not like, out of curiosity?

      Thank you!! So glad you liked it and thanks for your comment! ^_^

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hmmm… now I am truly intrigued by this author! I haven’t read any of her stuff… but watched Bridge to Terebithia, which was quite sad and made me shy of DWJ.

    But… all these things you say!!! I read through them, and found myself wishing you were writing about MY works instead, because that’s exactly the philosophy I use when writing… and so now I feel I must find and read some DWJ and possibly they will help me keep my writing goals refreshed and blooming in my books!!!

    Thanks for such an enthusiastic introduction to an author I had not been interested in heretofore!

    Take care!
    Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

    • Um… Diana Wynne Jones had absolutely nothing to do with Bridge to Terebithia. o.o So I don’t know, I guess you have her mixed up with somebody else. XD DWJ wrote Howl’s Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci series and other children’s fantasy books. I haven’t read Bridge to Terebithia but I’ve heard it’s sad, and it’s DEFINITELY nothing to do with DWJ!

      Yeah, she’s definitely an original author to read, that’s for sure! πŸ™‚

      Like

  7. A charming wizard in more ways than one! I haven’t even read the book and I love that.

    What you said about none of her books quite fitting a genre but all being “Diana Wynne Jones” is good. I think, in most cases of really good books, it’s the authour’s style coming through no matter what the topic or world or century is that can make readers love a particular authour. In turn that would give the writer not only more pressure to have a good writing voice, but freedom to write whatever they want, without having to stick to X genre because people know her for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heheh, thanks. πŸ˜‰ (Read iiiit, it’s so good! <3)

      It's so true though! If we like an author and they have a distinctive style, we keep wanting more! Excellent thoughts on the subject! πŸ™‚ And I like what you said about more pressure but also more freedom — you're so right! And I for one want to dabble in several different genres, so… yeah. πŸ˜›

      Like

  8. Pingback: #MarchMagics Wrapup {2017} | The Page Dreamer

  9. Pingback: Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones | The Page Dreamer

  10. Pingback: Spring Ishness! {2017} | The Road of a Writer

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