Thursday, January 12, 2006
Story Resolutions--Part 2
Sorry for the late post, east-coasters. I couldn't get on blogspot last night.
One thing I need to clarify from yesterday’s post. When I asked how much needs to be told to the reader in the resolution, I wasn’t questioning whether we should leave loose ends—that is, parts of the story that are not wrapped up. I think it’s tricky to leave loose ends. And in a suspense, readers pretty much want to see how the different parts of the story end up. Rather, I was questioning how much “connecting the dots” we need to do for the reader. I am for tying up loose ends. I am not for connecting every dot. I like to think my readers have the intelligence to do that on their own.
I can’t get specific here, because I’m not about to give away the ending to my stories. So hang with me in a theoretica.
Let’s say I write a book in which the killer could be A, B or C. There’s also been a kidnapping, and readers are led to believe the perpetrator of that crime could also be A, B, or C. They’re further lead to believe (through that whole assumption-building process we’ve talked about) that whoever did the killing did the kidnapping. And it’s an absolute known fact that the kidnapper also committed a certain robbery. Turns out the killer is character D. And the kidnapper is character E. (Those twists again.) The revelation of these truths occurs during all the action of the crisis/climax.
Next comes the resolution, in which any loose ends are tied up. I don’t think I need to say in the resolution that character E did the robbery. That the kidnapper did the robbery was made clear during the story. I think I’d be talking down to my reader to “connect those dots” by stating the obvious.
Now, that’s a very simple example. Unfortunately the issues I tend to deal with in my resolutions are much more convoluted. Sometimes the lines connecting the dots aren’t so easy to understand immediately. Sometimes they require a little logical thinking.
Ever come out of a movie theater after watching a twisty-plotted film, and as you’re walking to your car you’re saying to yourself, “Okay, so if this and that, then what about thus-and-so?” It takes a few minutes of putting together all the data points you were given in the resolution to answer your questions—but they are answerable.
If I took the time to connect every dot of logic in my resolutions, with all I have to cover, they’d be 25 pages long. And boring as all get out. And the reader would feel like I was talking down to him/her. On the other hand, there’s definitely a balance. The reader is expecting a satisfying ending, and doesn’t want to have to logic through details for an hour or more. They should be able to connect the dots pretty quickly.
At any rate, this approach helps me make the resolution as short as possible. But at the same time, there’s yet another very important thing to balance—the reader’s need to see a satisfying conclusion in the personal lives of the characters. Not just does the heroine live to tell the tale—which is pretty much expected to happen. But how has it changed her? Where will she go from here? And what about those little romance nuances that were woven through the action? Does she get with the guy or not? Or is she at least thinking about it? And what spiritual revelation has she had, whether large or small? What does she intent to do about it? Etc.
So on one hand, I’ve got the dozens of details of how and when and why and by whom the myriad crimes occurred. On the other hand, there’s all the personal stuff. How to create a resolution that will cover all these very necessary aspects, and satisfy the reader? Let’s say I have no idea what the resolution scene will be. (Which is usually true. The right scene becomes apparent after I’ve written the crisis/climax.)
To help find the right scene, I ask myself two questions.
Read Part 3