The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
It's tough to write a book that moves properly, because I already know everything the reader doesn't. I can't tell what hooks the reader to read on and what's just boring. The only thing hooking me as a reader of my own ms anymore is that I like the characters and the situations they're in. Sometimes I look at this ms and think, boy, something needs to be happening pretty quickly here, or the story's going to be in trouble. Other times I think, wait a minute, it's already happening because the reader's wondering about ______.
I think maybe there are at least two kinds of "suspense"? One is...I guess it's conflict? Anticipating plot events? Like OMG, what's going to happen when they open that door? But there's a second kind of suspense, that's more along the lines of Who the h*ll is this guy? What's his story? What kind of trouble has he brought with him? It's not conflict/plot stuff, exactly, because it's all up to me how I parcel it out. It's not dependent on any particular thing happening; it's writer-selected, and most of it relies on stuff like conversation or realization. And it can go almost anywhere in the book.
So...that means it's a tool, and if I apply it mindfully, I can use it carry the story for a while, till something starts happening again.
Hmm. Maybe these two "suspenses" are the same for most people, but for me maybe the second one is a crux where plot and character meet? Because to me the two "suspenses" don't look like the same thing at all. They may look the same from the outside, after you've read a book, but while the book's being worked on, they're derived and selected in completely different ways. For me, anyway.**
So perhaps it would behoove me to figure out this other thread, whatever it is. There's the plot thread, where stuff happens (like doors being opened and guns going off). There's the character thread, where the emotional story lies. And then there's this other thing, that I don't know what to call. I don't think it's suspense, exactly, because that word covers plot as well. It's got to do with noticing the way I spool out information to the reader, and getting the most bang for my writing buck out of it.
It's also got to do with what the reader knows, vs. what I know, vs. what the main character knows, vs. what the other characters know. Everybody knows different things, and there are about ten million different kinds of "reveals" to choose from, in order to keep the story moving. And at any second the reader could suddenly get sick of it all and just want something concrete to happen.
I find this all very confusing and overwhelming, so for now will just make a stab at keeping it in mind as I work. Maybe as I sort out what it all means, I'll be able to use it to stronger effect than when I just stumble onto something that works.
*rather than just sitting down to one project and finishing it, which is what I definitely ought to be doing. But my head has overloaded on trying to get a satisfying storyline while also teaching kids about onomatopoeias. Once my head has overloaded on one idea, that's all she wrote, until a little break gets it cleared out again.
**the second one, for me--in this book--comes from understanding the secondary characters and knowing their stories.
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