Monday, April 25, 2022

Reaching "The End"

 "Keeping the Reader Reading," Part 12 of 13.  

A story ends when the character has achieved his primary goal, or he achieves some form of closure relating to the goal unachieved. For example, he gets the girl or gets over not getting the girl.

Often, the main character has some realization about "what it's all been about" at the very end. This can be as heavy handed as a stated moral to the story, or a subtle use of imagery that has appeared through the story, or a victory celebration of some sort.

The best "moral to the story" I can think of right now is the end of the film, THE MALTESE FALCON. The hero, played by Humphrey Bogart, has turned in the woman he loves for the murder of his partner.  In a voice over, he says he did this because the code he lives by as a private eye is even more important to him than love.

My STAR-CROSSED ends as it begins with the hero talking whimsically about wishing on a star. At the end, his wish has come true in the form of the woman in his arms. I used stars through the novel as images of aspirations and dreams, and even my cover has a man's manacled hand reaching for a star that is out of reach. These images tie the novel together until the images converge at the end with the hero's final words.

The most memorable victory celebration for me is the end of the original STAR WARS where Luke, Han, and Chewie receive medals for destroying the Death Star. Everyone is happy and victory has been achieved.

The final goal being achieved might not be the end of the novel.  It may end on a final hook or may be part of the first hook for the next novel.  I’ll discuss that next.  

Monday, April 18, 2022

Waking the Reader Up

"Keeping the Reader Reading," (Part 11 of 13)

John Gardner created the perfect analogy of writing in THE ART OF FICTION. He said that the writer creates a dream for the reader, and the writer must do nothing which wakes the reader up. Getting viewpoint right is a major part of keeping the reader within your dream.

Here are some other mistakes which will wake the reader up.

Author intrusion. The author uses language in such a way that the reader is aware of the reading and the author. If writing fiction is like photography, then author intrusion is the finger on the lens, the blurry focus, etc. The problem can be anything from writing that is too flowery or filled with too many obscure words to poor grammar or spelling. It can also be overuse of dialect or words made up for the world you create.

Wrong word choices. Pick strong verbs and avoid adverbs. Avoid "felt," "noticed," "seen," "thought," and other words like this. They distance the reader from the reality of the viewpoint character. Watch out for piled-on participial phrases and clauses which slow and break the rhythm of reading.

Repeating the character's name over and over again. Don't feel a need to constantly use the character's name in narrative. "He" or "she," is perfectly adequate except for clarity and the beginning of a scene. Name repetition reminds the reader that he is reading about a character, and it jerks him right out of that viewpoint character's head.

Overuse of characters addressing each other by name in dialogue. Don't constantly use names in dialogue. Listen to conversations and notice when people address each other by name. You won't hear many. Names are most often used at the beginning of a conversation as people greet each other. "Hello, Mary, how are you?" Or they're used to impart important or emotional information. "He's dead, Jim."

A plot that goes nowhere because the character has no goal. This is covered in my article, "How to Use Index Cards to Plot a Novel," so I won't go into it here.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Beginning a Scene's Viewpoint

 "Keeping the Reader Reading," (Part 10 of 13.)

In each scene, a writer should identify the viewpoint character immediately in some manner then place that character within the scene itself. Have him think something which shows that he is now the viewpoint character. In the scene above, the word "forced" is the reader's first clue that we are now in Gard's viewpoint. The rest of the paragraph reinforces his viewpoint.

Gard forced his right fist back into a hand before he knocked Mark's teeth or the side of the door in and pushed the front seat back into position. He locked and closed the door then nodded curtly to his former partner. "I'll call you."

Even if the scene is primarily introspection, the character should still be in a physical place at the beginning. In other words, first show that the viewpoint character is Hamlet, show that he is standing on the battlements of the royal castle, and he's staring at clouds, then let him think about whether he should believe the ghost of his father or not.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Viewpoint Changes within a Scene

 I screwed up my numbering on the series so this should have been 8, not 9.  So, you are not missing an article.  I apologize.  

Keeping the Reader Reading," (Part 9 of 13.)

I've said that you shouldn't have more than one viewpoint within a scene, and that's usually true, but you can shift viewpoint to another character for the remainder of a long scene.

In this scene from my GUARDIAN ANGEL, the heroine has been the viewpoint character through a long chase scene and an interrogation by FBI Agent Mark Faulkner. She and her bodyguard who is Mark's ex-partner are ready to leave. Mark kisses her to make Gard jealous. At that point, I switch to Gard's viewpoint for the remainder of the chapter.

Stepping back, she resisted her urge to glare or hit Mark in his presumptuous teeth. Despite his obvious desire to sleep with her, he had meant that kiss more for Gard's reaction than her seduction. He'd coldly and secretly studied Gard during the whole supposedly passionate exchange. She shoved the car seat forward, his Machiavellian maneuvers beyond her comprehension at the moment, and slid into the back seat. "I'll sit in the back."

Gard forced his right fist back into a hand before he knocked Mark's teeth or the side of the door in and pushed the front seat back into position. He locked and closed the door then nodded curtly to his former partner. "I'll call you."

How did I show a viewpoint change? That's our next subject.