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Elizabeth McCracken crafts a unique and intriguing love story in “It’s Bad Luck to Die” through her use of characterization, character relations, and the structure of the story. The story is structured in a way that engages the reader and keeps movement flowing throughout a story that wouldn’t necessarily have a lot of movement.

Starting from the beginning, the author does a good job of grabbing the reader’s attention with her first line: “Maybe you wonder how a Jewish girl….” It’s effective because it grabs the reader by addressing him/her directly, and it is an interesting statement that plays to something that many people might think about or at least have basic knowledge about (religion).  We all know why it’s weird for a Jewish girl to have Jesus tattoos, and that’s something we might want to read further about to find out why. The story then dips back into an actual scene with dates and details. This gives the reader somewhere concrete to land after the first section. It also begins to set up the characters and their relationships, which become important to larger themes. From there McCracken continues with the use of direct scenes that reflect larger ideas. These small scenes are easier and more interesting to read than summary-like scenes, and they create a world for the reader to get lost in. 

Both Lois and Tiny are well-fleshed-out characters who have both physical and personality descriptions. The author does a good job of showing instead of telling when it comes to these characters. There was no place in the story that I felt like I was being ordered to think something about one of the characters. A few examples of where I felt this was well done were: “The shop was clean and smelled of antiseptic; Babs and I were disappointed” (4) and “Tiny turned around politely while Babs lowered her blue jeans” (5). The first line shows the sense of adventure that the two girls have when they are disappointed that the shop is clean. The use of a semi-colon in that sentence is an effective tool to show how closely related the two sentences are. The second sentence about Tiny shows his character because he is going to be sticking a needle into this girl’s butt in ten minutes, but he still turns around while she is in the vulnerable position of taking off her pants. There are details like these throughout the story that is very effective in describing the characters without actually describing them. 

The author also uses foils with other characters very well throughout the story to demonstrate more of Lois’s character. In a story like this where there isn’t a huge dramatic event like a volcano, it is the characters and their relationships that make the story interesting. Lois and her mother are effectively set up as foils to one another. The relationship with Babs also creates an interesting dynamic to the story because she brought Lois into the world of tattoos but she herself grew out of it. These relationships are well-done because they are ways of showing instead of telling while giving insight into who Lois is as a character.

All of this characterization is important because it creates an emotional connection between the reader and the characters. When it comes time for Tiny to die and for Lois to carry on without him, the reader needs to feel a connection so he or she cares. If the characters weren’t developed, the reader would have no reaction to their problems or their love story and the fact that she is a “love letter.”

One Response to “Effective aspects of “It’s Bad Luck to Die””

  1. Very nicely done, Lydia. You do a great job of suggesting many of the techniques McCracken uses to make the story more effective.

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