it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken
matociquala

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Excerpt--Misdirection and Structure



A lot of this is specific to her work and mine, but there's enough in here that's general to various writing discussions on structure and misdirection that I thought it might entertain somebody.

Rhonda:
Yeah, if you weren't trying to misdirect them in the
first place :-) I don't know about you, but if someone really misdirects me and the story comes to a conclusion or a detail that I hadn't expected, then I turn back to see if I had really been fooled, or just lied too. That's what I mean by the flip back factor. Sometimes, they slip you a mickey and you never know it till you get blindsided. Then you go back to see how that
happened.

Also, I wonder if the idea here isn't to sometimes redefine what's satisfaction? I mean, take Bridge of Blood and Iron. I loved that story, but in no way did what happen satisfy me on a personal level. I didn't get any happy endings, or any clean or un-messy resolutions. No one I loved walked away with anything they wanted or loved. But I got something that stuck to the true nature of the story and that was true to the characters as well. I got something I didn't expect and I got something very powerful emotionally.


eBear:
Right. It's not a book anybody will ever want to
reread, and that's okay--I wanted that Romeo and Juliet/Hamlet/true Arthurian ending: All the knights died save Bedivere, and all the women to convents went.

And some readers will hate, hate, hate it. And it's okay to have readers hate things--I claim that there are no good books that haven't bounced off at least one wall.

The thing is, you want the book to bounce because you kicked the reader in the gut and they rejected what you showed them, not because they were frustrated by the craft. You're doing something really ambitious with this book. And I want to see you pull it off.

I'm not uncomfortable with that, or with the graphic violence--blood doesn't bother me, as you should know by now--but rather I didn't feel like those scenes were quite worthy of the book you had written up to that point. They're probably going to be damned hard to make worthy, because both writers and readers tend to distance themselves from gore.

And it is often much, much more effective to let a reader visualize horror for himself. For an example of what I mean, look at the differences between the latest Friday the Thirteenth movie (JasonX ?) and "Alien."

Alien is a damned scary movie, and its a classic for a reason--and some of that reason is that the core is very emotionally grounded, and a lot of it is suggested as much as shown. It's all about the
emotional context.


Rhonda:
So sometimes the reader comes to the book expecting
that they'll get a certain ending, and if you always intended to do
something else and never promised them that ending, is it then bad if they're disappointed with the direction?


eBear:
It is bad if they are disappointed, because they shouldn't be. Because you have to foreshadow both endings at once--as I did in Shadowhand, although I let the reader think I was going to give them something else--a much better example of this is
Connie Willis' "Passage."

You do NOT get the ending you want. But it's an honest ending, in that it is foreshadowed throughout. Another good example is the movie Sixth Sense. Those are probably both good instances to study.


Rhonda:
I guess it might have to do with how many people expected that unwritten ending. After all, if you did, unknowingly, write in a way that promised something, maybe you should deliver, since it's your fault in a sense, or at least try to write in such a way that you don't get readers pumped up for something that won't be there.


eBear:
See above. You have to structure the book so that they don't get the ending they want/expect, but they get
the ending they need.

My structure issues with Lex aren't ones of expectation currently--I'm not rebelling from where you're taking the book--but I am rebelling from its choppiness and the fact that I'm not feeling its
narrative arc in my head. Partially because of that big disconnect, but also because I am feeling like you're overwithholding some information--cheating a little.

Hmm. Here's something to consider--when you do the rewrite, consider interleaving past-time chapters with present-time chapters, so the two stories flow concurrently. Look at Roger Zelazny's "Roadmarks" for an example of how this works, and also at Dave Duncan's "The Gilded Chain". Excellent books both.

I think if you built the two stories side by side, you might wind up with a strong tension between the two of them and it would help the overall flow of the book.


Rhonda:
Or is there merit in getting them pumped up and
> blindsided anyway. I know I like that.


eBear:
Right. Blindsided is good. But what you want is to
blindside them and then have them go "How the hell did I not see that coming!"

Because if you just blindside them, they will feel cheated, and they will not buy the next book.

Surprised good.

Cheated bad. :-)


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