The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Writing Techniques

We’ve already touched on some of these ideas in previous questions and comments, but I wanted to make sure we discussed the writing techniques Albom used to convey this story, because they’re such a crucial part of how the story is organized.

Countdown to Death

I found the countdown to Eddie’s death to be disturbing because I felt like I was looking forward to his death. The suspense seemed perverse to me. It is, however, a creative technique for opening the story and focusing our attention on Eddie’s death and his afterlife. How did this countdown affect you?


I just reread the first chapter and was more impressed with Albom’s use of flashback; the first time through I was a little disoriented. The story weaves in and out from the present to Eddie’s past and to the life stories of other characters and to the intersections of Eddie’s life with those other characters. Albom also uses Eddie’s birthdays as a way of giving us snapshots of Eddie’s life and marking the passage of time. What do you learn through the flashbacks and all the movement through time in the first chapter? How effective is Albom’s style for this story in particular?

For those of you concerned about source attribution, I’m basing some of my discussion questions on those provided by LitLovers, who got their questions from the publisher of TFPYMIH. I don’t always like their questions or how they phrase them, but I’m using them to guide the general direction of the discussion.

12 thoughts on “The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Writing Techniques

  1. 1. The countdown was a bit macabre, but I think it was appropriately used in this case and I felt it contributed to the story overall.

    2. Flashbacks are intended to be disorienting. That being said, I agree that it was a bit difficult to follow the time jumps in the story at first, but that the continuity of celebrating Eddie’s birthdays was helpful and did tie the story together. I think this particular technique for this particular story is a good choice; however, I wouldn’t use it often or for longer works.

  2. While I the reader knew it was a countdown to death, Eddie did not, so I think I was involved with the routines and the atmosphere of his last hours.

    I am not sure that I know where the chapters are. I like the flashback style for writing and while it is disorienting, I thinks it adds texture. I am reading a non-fiction Fair Game aby Vlaerie Plame. Iit is told in a straight line and is the hardest book I have ever read.

    The continuity of the birthday celebrations are helpful.

    • The dramatic irony of our knowing these are the last minutes of Eddie’s life while he just goes about his daily business makes the story more pointed for the reader. He was having such a normal day and then everything changed suddenly.

      I really liked the use of birthdays to mark time. And you’re right that flashback can make a story more interesting. I’d imagine that Valerie Plame’s story isn’t terribly thrilling. I remember when the story broke and was often confused by all the technicalities of the court cases.

      • I definitely thought the countdown was extremely poignant. The contrast between his mundane day and our knowledge that his life is about to end creates drama and discomfort and also adds to the point that no one’s life is worthless or unimportant. Life is precious and fragile and beautiful, only he didn’t know it.

        I enjoy the flashbacks. I love the way you, Natalie, described the birthday scenes as “snapshots.” We DO usually take pictures of people on their birthday, gathered around the cake or blowing out the candles. These little short chapters are like a tiny photograph giving us more and more information about Eddie. I’m getting glimpses of a loving mother, a taciturn and disapproving father, and a brother with whom he has conflicts.

        I also love the image of the Pier – once beautiful, changing, growing somewhat decrepit and less attractive as tourists go to the bigger amusement parks. It’s decay seems to mirror Eddie’s.

  3. Pingback: The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Last Words « Chronicles of Natalie

  4. Oops! As an English teacher I bow my head in shame: “it’s” should have been “its” in my last sentence. Argh!

    • 😀 That made me giggle. I had just noticed the apostrophe error in Natalie’s coment “the Pier was at it’s [sic] peak” when I read your response to your own error. I do this all the time when I’m typing, and I’m constantly wanting to go back and edit everything to remove all my typos, especially apostrophe typos … they give me editorial twitches.

  5. Pingback: The Five People You Meet in Heaven: Last Words « Reading Together

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