I finally got round to Cecilia Ahern’s One Hundred Names. Truth be told I wasn’t quite looking forward to it after The Gift ended all morally preachy, and friends said her books are hit-and-miss. But the message of One Hundred Names resonated strongly: Katherine Logan, a journalist, was drawn to the glitz of TV like a moth, lost her compass, but found redemption in completing an assignment her dead mentor set her.
The task wasn’t momentous. In fact, the people she had to interview didn’t think they were much special. Katherine, or Kitty as she’s also known, struggled to find the spark in their stories, the common thread running through all the people she managed to track down. Then she had a EUREKA! moment, and in a cliche, found back her values, what she’d always set out to do. Well that’s the main character who readers grow with.
There’s another main character that readers don’t see much of, but definitely feel her presence: Constance, Kitty’s mentor. Her idea of journalism pretty much goes against the grain of most commercial stories. To quote, “Journalism classes teach us that one must extract oneself from the story in order to report without bias, but often we need to be in the story in order to understand, to connect, to help the audience identify or else it has no heart; it could be a robot telling the story, for all anyone cares.”
That resonates with me because I’m a writer. So I write serious (boring) finance stuff for a living. But finance can come alive, made personal and seen as intertwined with things around the world. As a writer, I’ve a need to make words jump off a page, make readers feel that it affects them, and read on for the hows and whys. Therein lies my challenge: to make things fresh and interesting with each new day. In other words, make copy compelling. Tiredness takes over some days, and that shows in my writing – I default to my basic set of vocab and description words and bother less about writing compelling copy than meeting the deadline.
Of course, I’m impacted because our protagonist Kitty rediscovers this motto for herself again. After months and years of telling stories for fame, she goes back to writing for people, writing to inspire. She finds beauty in the ordinary, and realises that 100 random names from the phonebook will have 100 interesting stories to tell, if only she asks the right questions. That was her eureka moment.
It’s a little cliche, but I love how Cecilia Ahern explained it: “Every single ordinary person has an extraordinary story. We might all think that we are unremarkable, that our lives are boring, just because we aren’t doing ground-breaking things or making headlines or winning awards. But the truth is we all do something that is fascinating, that is brave, that is something we should be proud of. Every day people do things that are not celebrated. That is what we should be writing about. The unsung heroes, the people that don’t believe they are heroes at all because they are just doing what they believe they have to do in their lives.”
Mimosa’s rating of One Hundred Names: 4.5/5