Singing atop pianos, on-stage bitch outs and nipple buses. Welcome to the world of Daisy Jones & The Six. The biggest band to hit the rock ‘n’ roll airways at the turn of the 1970s. As the slogan goes, “their music made them famous; their break up made them legendary”. Taylor Jenkins Reid, best-selling author of the Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Carrie Soto is Back, delivers a creative, documentary-style retrospective of this fictional band, their skyrocketing success and why they plummeted back to earth all too soon. Daisy Jones & The Six is a pill-popping, heart-rocking expression of overcoming our demons, choosing our own paths in life and what it means to be so beautifully, chaotically human.
Our What We Can Mimic articles are dedicated to showcasing the finer, grander points of a writer’s work and how a deeper inspection of inspiration material can help new writers find their feet. So, read below for our top four take-aways from the Daisy Jones & The Six novel.
1. Creative Liberty
Sentences into paragraphs, into chapters, into books. That’s the staple. That’s the set-up that writers are expected to follow. “Build tension until Chapter 4… Dramatic ending in Act 2…”. Whilst Daisy Jones & The Six keeps enough rules in place for a digestible read, its interview-style prose is a fantastic break from the complacent norm.
Told through first-hand, interview-style accounts of the different members of the band, every scene is a reminiscence, hazy in the details, contradictory across accounts, and forms gradually: like pieces of a puzzle. A multi-layered puzzle. If you’re looking for something to remind you, as a writer, that our craft is a creative one: that you are not required to colour within the lines, try Daisy Jones.
Books that remind us what it is to be creative are sacred. And this one does it in a way that is not only palatable but thoroughly enjoyable.
2. Strong Female Leads
If you like strong female leads then Daisy Jones & The Six is a must-read. Not because Daisy Jones or Camila Dunne are superheroes in spandex, can bench-press their opponents, or have a strength of character beyond others. I call them strong because they persist with their lives, despite the failings of the world around them, the people they love, or their own foolish mistakes. Daisy Jones and Camila Dunne are my personal favourites in this book: a weak woman desperately trying to disguise herself as strong, and a strong woman in a role others might think to be weak. I’ll let you decide which description belongs to which woman. Both have an incredible and undeniable strength that spurs the story forward. And it’s not because either one is perfect.
When writing your story’s cast, remember that strength of character does not exist in a vacuum, free of personal faults, failings, or weaknesses. Nor is it a comparative quality. Someone in complete command of their life, without internal conflict, is not truly strong as they succeed day in and day out. The one who achieves only a tenth of their neighbor’s success, dragging his or her demons behind them, is the one we remember. And it is the memorable ones that are “strong” characters.
3. Natural Dialogue
Different writers have different natural skills. Some conquer description like a pro. For others, it’s character development or world-building. And with natural skills come natural pitfalls. If one of your weaker areas is dialogue, if you worry that your characters aren’t sounding realistic, Daisy Jones & The Six is a great way to immerse yourself in natural, verbal descriptions.
As the characters in Daisy Jones are all speaking to a non-present interviewer, separate from the rest of the cast, their language is technically more monologue than dialogue. But, in speaking as if to their biographer, their thoughts read spontaneously, their pauses, intonations, and choice of vocabulary natural to them. On several occasions, it was easy to instinctively know who was speaking, regardless of the name to the left of the page, just from their choice of language.
When reading Daisy Jones, try to notice how the band members in the book don’t always speak in full sentences. They contradict themselves, sometimes within the same paragraph. They go back and reiterate themselves. They pause, stop mid-sentence and change what they want to say. Dialogue does not have to be fluid. It does not have to be perfect to be natural. But it does have to be natural to be perfect. If dialogue is an area you want to address in your writing, read Daisy Jones & The Six and then try turning directly to your own work. See if some of that naturalism can start to flow.
4. Genuine Love
There are so many interpersonal relationships in this book that could be broken down, assessed, and gloried over. But, for now, I have to choose just one more. And I choose the way Taylor Jenkins Reid captures love. Not grand, passionate magnetism, or the extravagance of commercialized romance (both of which are present in the novel). But genuine love, found in the subtle moments of life.
Billy Dunne and his wife Camila are the romantic spine of Daisy Jones & The Six. I would go so far as to say that the entire book is a love letter to them, despite all the other intriguing and necessary drama that keeps the wheels of the story turning. At its core, the entire book is a testament and homage to their relationship and all the highs and lows of their high-flying, hard-rocking lives together. Between which, there are little sparks. Little moments that, brick-by-brick, build the foundations for a loving relationship that, by the end, feels stronger than anything you’d find in a straight romance novel. No, truly; more romantic than the relationships in books dedicated to romance. And it comes from their relationship feeling genuine.
The trick to this sincerity is in how Billy and Camila know one another to their very souls. Camila’s question “Did you get a record contract?” is simple enough. Nothing grand. Nothing bold. But when she’s asking it, as a way of ignoring Billy’s marriage proposal until he answers the damn question, she’s putting everything Billy has ever dreamed of first and foremost. That is love. When Camila returns from meeting an old flame and Billy says nothing, trusting in her decisions for their life together… that is love. Neither circumstance is dramatic. One is a phone conversation, the other a passing instance. And neither may be as romantic for another couple, a different couple. But for Billy and Camila it is the height of romanticism. It shows a depth of connection that has you cheering them and their relationship on until the last page.
So when writing love interests into your story, consider their actions both big and small. In theory, their actions might be romantic. To an audience, they might seem passionate and exciting. But passion is a flash in the pan. If you want love, look at your story again. Do the choices of your characters, their gestures (grand or simple), show that they understand their lover? Not simply that they love them. But that they understand them? Because that is what we all search for when we talk of love: understanding and acceptance. And I promise you, it’s all you need to make your readers swoon.