Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

And I Would Have Gotten Away With it Too, If It Hadn't Been For You Meddling Kids

by Stephanie Black

I’m pleased to report that I finished writing the climax of my novel. The forces of good and the forces of evil have tangled, evil has been defeated, and good is recovering. Actually, “finished” is too strong of a word; I’m finished only in the sense that I’m nearly ready to go back and rewrite the whole book. But before I start again from line one (“Call me Ishmael”—catchy, no?) I need to write the wrap-up.

This portion of a book is a tricky balancing act. On the one hand, I want to make sure that the wrap-up answers any remaining questions and gives the reader a clear idea of where the characters are headed. That doesn’t mean that every detail needs to be wrapped up perfectly—life rarely wraps up perfectly, but the ending needs to be satisfying. After reading through several hundred pages of book, the reader deserves satisfaction.

As a side note, this is one reason I’m not a devotee of 24. We watched Season 1 on DVD over the course of a few weeks. And while the show is certainly gripping, it’s too gripping--the nature of the show precludes satisfying endings and consequent release of tension. I watched and I watched and every time something good happened, I knew it was only a matter of time until it went bad again, until—oh joyful day!—we reached episode 24 and I thought here it comes, what I’ve been waiting for through 23 episodes of tension, the resolution, the gratification, the satisfaction. And what did I get? An “If you kill me, you’ll never find out who I’m working for!” and a flip-of-the-coin death of a main character (who had spent the entire season getting out of much more difficult situations). Sheesh. How unsatisfying.

But back to novel wrap-ups. They’re a balancing act. If I don’t provide enough wrap-up, the ending will feel abrupt. That’s frustrating for a reader. If I blather on with too much wrap-up, the book will sputter to a finish. That’s boring. Some books need very little wordage beyond the end of the climax. Others have a chunk of explaining to do, the kind of explanation that couldn’t come earlier or it would ruin the tension of that final clash (like in some of the Harry Potter books, where the wrap-up includes lengthy conversations between Harry and Dumbledore).

With my current novel, I’m still searching for the right balance. There’s not a lot of information that needs to come out in the end—most of that has already been revealed. But more emotional resolution is needed so the reader walks away with a clear idea of where the main character is headed.

Speaking of wrap-ups, I don’t have a good one for this blog, so I’ll just say I’m currently reading The Counterfeit by our own much-maligned Robison E. “E stands for Kick Me” Wells. It’s an awesome novel. You should read it.


At 8/16/2006 5:33 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

Ah, Scooby-doo. I always wantd to be a meddling kid but there were never any ghosts in our neighborhood. :(

At 8/17/2006 1:24 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I am eagerly awaiting this book of yours, Stephanie, so let's not spend too much more time on the rewrite, okay? I mean, it needs to be perfect, but let's not put me through any more agony than absolutely necessary.

And speaking of Rob (E stands for Eloquent) I just finished Wake Me When It's Over last night and was mighty impressed. Me thinks I'll be heading out to get The Counterfeit in the very near future.

At 8/17/2006 6:07 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Thank you, Tristi! I'll work as fast as I can, and if I start feeling like stalling, I'll remind myself that Tristi is waiting.

You'll love The Counterfeit. I'm frankly blown away by what a superb writer Rob is. Hey, I just complimented Rob on the blog. Is that legal?


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