Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Made Gone Girl A Best Seller

Flynn’s Gone Girl had many familiar elements. The plot line itself isn’t new. Early on
readers can guess Amy is responsible for her own disappearance. The dueling points of view are
very popular right now (at least in genres I’m familiar with). But what made it a bestseller—
what makes it different—are the risks the author took with this book.
While dueling viewpoints are popular right now, in Gone Girl both main characters are
unreliable narrators. Nick lies to the police throughout the book. A reader can overlook this,
because he admits his lies to us, so at least he’s being honest with us. But then Andie pops up,
and all of a sudden this part-time professor is having an affair with his twenty-three-year-old
student and failed to mention it during his wife’s missing person’s case.From
that moment on, everything he says may or may not be true. And while early on I had assumed
Amy was responsible for her disappearance, after this incident I began to doubt Nick.
But Amy’s not dead. She framed Nick, and she’s gloating about it. And
most of what she’s said until now has been a lie. This turns the story on its head. Readers already
couldn’t trust Nick, and now we can’t trust Amy either. I found myself turning pages just to
reach some kind of finale—an ultimate ending with some version of truth. And in the second
half of the book, both narrators seem to be honestly dishonest. Amy admits her manipulations
and even murder to Nick while lying to the cops. Nick continues to lie to the cops and his own
attorney but is sometimes honest with his sister and seemingly honest to the reader.  Both characters are just honest enough we might be able to believe the conclusion.
But an equally big risk Flynn took is one authors are usually advised against. You can’t
have an unlikeable main character because then readers won’t care. Both of these characters are
hard, if not impossible, to like. By the end of the book the reader doesn’t even know who he/she
is rooting for anymore. Nick is a scumbag who hates women, lies a lot, borrows money from his
wife, and has affairs with very young women. Amy is manipulative, vindictive, and possibly
psychotic. They’re both incredibly selfish. The book takes on a soap opera feel after a while
because both characters are so screwed up. At times I found myself continuing just to see who
was going to do what outlandish thing next. And get away with it.
Readers allow two dishonest jerks to take them on a ride with the comfort that the
journey will get somewhere because the plot line and structure of the novel are familiar.


  1. I think this "soap opera feel" is why many people loved 50 Shades too. I hate them, but to each his own. Very interesting post, Beth! :)

  2. Beth, you're exactly right. And I've always been one of those readers who doesn't care if I "like" the MC, I just want to be fascinated by them. And BOTH of those characters intrigued me. I went something similar with the male MC in my Butterman book--a lot of readers didn't really "like" him cuz he wasn't always nice. But I think when people have a strong reaction to something, whether good or bad, the fact they felt something at all will make them keep reading.

    Flynn also broke the rule of no backstory in the first chapter. It's LOADED with it. But what I think worked so well for her, is the voice. I was so sucked into the clever voices of the characters, it didn't really matter where the plot took me, I just enjoyed being in their heads and reading how they described things. I couldn't put the book down.