Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Few Incoherent Opinions

by Stephanie Black

Strangely enough, it’s April. Since this is the month when I plan to submit my manuscript and I’ve still got a couple of weeks worth of work left, logic would dictate that I’d better not spend too much time blogging.

Of course, logic would also dictate that I shouldn’t have been reading that Mary Higgins Clark novel yesterday, but I was ensnared by my own good intentions. After a long period of slug-hood, I decided to start exercising, and I wanted something to read while I was on the exercise machine. What better choice than Mary Higgins Clark, the queen of the page-turner? The problem, of course, arose when I picked up the book when I wasn’t exercising. But truly, I didn’t read it for very long . . .

So just a few quick thoughts.

1—I love the way writing stays done, unlike—VERY unlike—housework. When you write a novel, you don’t open the book fifteen minutes later and find all the words scattered around the pages in random fashion or spilling onto the floor to be ground into the carpet.

2—I admire people who can draft novels longhand. I have to be able to edit as I draft (and then my work still needs lots of revision). As Dorothy Parker said, “I can’t write five words but that I change seven.”

3—Fizzly endings bug me. This is when tension builds throughout a thriller or a mystery just like it should, but then you get to the big final confrontation and you feel like, “That’s IT? That’s ALL?” I once read a fun novel—it was a terrific story, a very gripping mystery—but then the unmasking of the villain was so anticlimactic that I turned the page hoping that the accused villain wasn’t the real villain after all, and there would be a big twist and then a rocketing forward to the real climax. Not so. The remainder of the novel was spent wrapping up the romance angle.

If you want a great example of a non-fizzly ending, read Jeffrey Savage’s “House of Secrets.” Every time you think you have it figured out, there’s another twist. Every time you think the heroine is about to escape, wham!—back in peril. It’s awesome.

4—Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” has some great songs, but Ariel is a doofus. She’s sixteen and she wants to go marry some guy about whom she knows nothing and has nothing in common just because he was so cute playing the flute and dancing with his dog. Of course, Eric is equally dumb, so maybe it’s a fair match. My teenage daughter suggests I’m taking the story a bit too seriously.

5—I don’t find Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights” to be an appealing romantic hero. Not an easy guy to root for. I want to like my heroes.

6—One of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read is Connie Willis’s “To Say Nothing of the Dog.” Time travel, chaos theory and Victorian England. It’s a riot. Go read it.

And now, back to fixing what’s wrong in my book, the goal being to avoid another Dorothy Parker-ism: “This is not a novel that should be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”


At 4/05/2006 11:30 AM, Blogger Sweebler said...

I totally agre with your take on The Little Mermaid. She should be grounded for several years.

At 4/05/2006 11:39 AM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

Ah, but King Triton is also a doofus who enslaves his entire kingdom to save his daughter from her own consequences. Not the guy you'd want as your king. Mayube Doofus-ness is a merpeople trait.

I also agree with the fizzly endings. I read a national best seller that has the heroine escape the final showdown by having the bad guy get struck by lightning. It was a wimpy way out of the situation.

Good job with your exercising--the new Elizabeth Peters is out when you finish MHC.

At 4/05/2006 11:44 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Well, even if they seem dumb, we know things work out in the long-term for Ariel and Eric. They have a daughter named Melody and they are blissfully happy being married. Yeah for sequels. :)

Plus, I actually have a cousin who when he saw his wife for the first time, that was it. He just knew. They had never even spoken and he didn't know her name. But they are now equally, happily married.

You had me laughing at the idea of coming back to your book and finding your words all askew. I would so give up.

I also understand your frustration with fizzly endings. I read a book that was a bestseller, had gained an unprecedented amount as an advance, only to turn out that it had the absolute lamest motivation for the paranormal villian's actions. I waited and waited to see this whole book why the bad guy was doing what he was doing and when I found out his goal I wanted to laugh and then throw the book. Don't take one of the world's biggest bad guys ever and make him want something so lame.

At 4/05/2006 3:14 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

But I'll bet your cousin didn't bargain away his freedom to the Sea Witch so he could court his wife-to-be ;-)

This morning I gave in and finished the Mary Higgins Clark novel. But the supreme irony is . . .the ending was lame. Serves me right.

At 4/06/2006 3:00 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...


Couldn't agree more on the endings thing. It's like blowing ujp a balloon. The bigger it gets the more you dread or possibly anticipate the huge pop. But then some books just let the air out.

Dean Koontz has let me down several time with fizzly endings. As a rule of thumb, I try to make the big clamitic ending about twice as big as I start out with it being. I do NOt want to let readers down at the point where they are most likely to be thinking about getting my next book.

Great BLOG!

At 4/07/2006 1:01 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Thanks, Jeff. I like your rule of thumb.

The better the book, the more frustrating it is if the ending is lame. It's like when playing a musical solo--if the last note the soloist hits is flat, it's that wrong note that's going to stay ringing in the air, leaving the audience cringing (even if the rest of the solo was good).


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