Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

One member of my ladylike critique group submitted a good, solid kidnapping scene for our review this week, but it wasn't as exciting as it should have been.

Thanks to the Global Story Goggles I've been learning to use, I was able to see what was wrong and give a brilliant-if-I-do-say-so structural edit, to which everyone--including the author--went "Ooooh!"

The scene had clear, escape-or-die high stakes. The captive vs captors conflict was fine. But I couldn't find a turning point.

The scene, in fact, turned six times: a ray of hope, a stab of despair, a possible escape route, another blow to the hero's head; he loosens his ropes; they tie him up tighter...and so on. The whole scene bobbed gently up and down like a little boat.

What if, I thought, she hits the hero with all the downs in a row? That'd create a single, steep downward slope to rock bottom. Then bring in the hope: give him that slight loosening of his bonds. His captors start turning against each other. He finds the rope-fraying nail. Et voilà: arc.

Dan Brown is living proof that a make-Dan-Brown-rich number of readers will stay up past bedtime reading mediocre prose if your scenes have peaks and troughs and big tone changes. Sadly, the converse isn't true: the most polished style can't make little bobbing boats into page-turners.

So roll in the stormclouds, start the wind machine, and make some big waves. Then polish the prose.

Because, as Shawn Coyne says:

Can there be an innovative literary novel that is also a barnburner of a read? Or a potboiler that is exquisitely written? Such is the Holy Grail of publishing. And of course, the answer is a resounding "YES".

When line-by-line and global Story magic come together, our jaws drop. It's why we pick up a book: [in the hope] that this one will join the short list of those that have changed our lives.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.




Latest Month

March 2018


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow