Thursday, May 15, 2008

Creative Writing 101, part 3

Continuing with what I learned from Kurt Vonnegut, in which I analyze his 8 Basic Rules of Writing and how that can be reflected in my own writing goals.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

If I was going to argue with Mr. Vonnegut on anything, it would be this one. M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t do this. Wicked, Lovely didn’t do this. The Princess and the Hound didn’t do this.

But the above examples also prove Vonnegut’s point, in a way. People don’t go to see Shyamalan’s latest movie because of the story—they go for the twist. I will never count Wicked, Lovely or The Princess and the Hound as one of my all time favorite books...because there was a point, near the end, with each of these book when I was only reading in order to find out what happened. I didn’t care about what happened to the characters, I didn’t have an emotional relationship with the story. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wanted to know the answer to the question, but I didn’t feel anything. I had as much attachment to these stories as I do to a crossword puzzle.

Then look at almost every cheap romance novel out there. I’ll admit they are an occasional guilty pleasure for me. When I pick up a romance, I know that Girl will, by the end of the story, be with Boy. A good romance doesn’t keep me wondering if that will happen, it makes me so involved with the story and characters that I can’t wait to just witness the inevitable. You know every Disney movie will end happily, but part of the happiness you feel is in watching that happy ending you already expect. You don’t have to be obvious (that would be boring), but it does help if the plot isn’t driven by the question, what will the resolution be, instead of the desire to witness the characters within the resolution. My goal in writing: Tell a story that people want to read not to find out the ending, but to satisfy a desire to witness the ending.
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