Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A dream of your making

Natural forces will halt any progress eventually. In literature, it is up to the author to keep the story interesting, and thus counteract that which would bring it to a grinding halt. Just as in a romantic relationship, when the eyes start to wander, the desire is lost.

A good tale will seduce the reader, encouraging them to indulge in every word. As a work progresses, the excitement should build.  Or at least the interest should deepen. Either way, the reader becomes engrossed in the proceedings.

There are many ways to build momentum in a story: flesh out the characters, expand their world, add a little mystery, or sharpen the terror. All of these things come down to increasing interest. Once the story becomes predictable, the reader will predictably seek out more bountiful fields.

The author has the advantage of holding all the cards. They know what is behind the locked door. A character’s hidden agenda is clearly seen to them. But the trick is in the sleight of hand, drawing the attention away from what you are really doing.

And thus, the tension builds; since the reader has no idea what will happen. As they continue along, more secrets are revealed.  One must be attentive, or a significant detail will go unnoticed.

Now you have them where you want them. They are trapped in a dream of your making. Though they could turn around and go home at any time, they step forward into the unknown; fully expecting the way to be perilous. For the destination beckons, with a promise of wishes granted and desires fulfilled.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The persistence of hope

They say it is always darkest before the dawn. No matter how bleak things look, people cling to a faint hope they will get better. Writers test the limits of despair, but there should always be the possibility of a light at the end of the tunnel.

In the case of darker works, this light may be ephemeral. But the chance must be there for the girl to escape the knife-wielding psycho. Even if there is no way out, the audience must think there is. Only then, can the true fear take root.

Once the slaughter becomes monotonous, the most desperate victim will throw up their hands and submit to the axe. It is the persistence of hope gnawing away at the reader, which will ensure the terror is maintained until the final cut. The true moment of fright is not when the killer has someone in his clutches, but just before the grasping hand snatches its prize.

With other types of stories, hope also plays an invaluable role. In drama, a tragedy will typically engender sympathies and a desire for the suffering to have some sort of end. Readers can be sadistic though, and often demand a great deal of pain before their emotional limit is reached.

The more you like the characters, the stronger your yearnings will be for their eventual happiness. Hope approaches unawares, and readers weep for those they have come to hold dear. At that point, a nudge in any direction will have a profound effect on the emotions.

Stories are a journey into the unknown. A satisfying ending is not always a happy one. But there must be hope: lurking in a corner somewhere, perhaps just out of reach as the trembling victim hides behind a flimsy door. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Taking the audience for a ride

Though writing is all about the conveying of emotion, there is a fine line before you fall off the precipice into melodrama. There is nothing mellow about it: the intensification of sentiment becomes overbearing and the warmth turns into a searing rage at the audacity of the author. One can only pull the heartstrings so far before they snap, and anything in the way is cut to pieces.

Drama is intense by its nature, often dealing with a character’s inner conflict and how it begins to affect others. In literature, drama is very much an elastic thing and you can stretch it quite far. But this only makes the backlash that much worse when it reaches the breaking point.

Readers love a tragedy, even when it brings them to tears. But the emotional roller coaster must be a well-timed and enjoyable experience. When the sadness becomes oppressive, the most ardent of drama seekers will demand to be let off.

Lovers of literature have a desire to suffer the hardships inherent in the reading of a tale. They want the author to take them on a ride. The ups and downs are all part of the fun. But they don’t want to be run into the ground.

There is that moment of anticipation, when the story begins to unfold. The momentum builds and the reader plummets through all of the twists and turns, leading to the climax. Sometimes they are taken for a loop, but they always want to be right-side up when the car coasts to a stop.

For there comes a time when the ride is over; was it fun or frustrating? Did they lose their inhibitions or just their lunch? Did they scream with excitement, or wail in despair? And the most important question to ask is this: would they want to ride again?   

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The patience of a craftsman

A great deal of patience is required for the crafting of a fine tale. Just as in the construction of a building, each layer of a literary work must be carefully fashioned, starting with a strong foundation. If the premise is flimsy, then the entire story will topple from its lofty heights.

The interweaving of plot and character can be a daunting task indeed. The audience must come to know both protagonist and antagonist and understand the forces that are working toward a conclusion. These are delicate matters and must be handled cleanly and smoothly.

There are the obvious elements of plot, and there are the devious subplots swimming about in the murky waters. Add to this the many levels of characterization, and you have a mixture which needs but a little stirring to become a tasty stew. Every now and then, even the writer is surprised by the subtle flavors hiding amongst the brew.

Building takes time, and a great deal of preparation. A firm foundation needs sturdy walls and a solid roof to become a suitable habitation. So, the elements of a story are fastened together in such a way that the gaps are filled and the nails are covered.

And eventually the work stands in all its glory, just waiting for the reader to come make themselves at home in its roomy interior. The genius is in the details and the attentive will discover each one, ever searching for more. They will marvel at the craftsmanship, and speak highly of the humble scribe who took in hand to fashion a house of ideas, reared by desire and reinforced with great care.