Sunday, February 3, 2013

Figure skating and Your Plot

It’s not everyone’s sport. Maybe you’re no fan of glitter, Puccini (which many skaters choose), or a sport reminiscent for many of what they dislike about ballet. Despite all that, as a novelist you might want to at least notice the metaphor.

Take all those lutzes and loops.  Most of us never quite understand the distinction between them, whether skaters execute three turns or four, and if the entrance is difficult or ordinary. (How do the judges arrive at those “magical” numbers, anyway?) It’s like asking a reader, or perhaps even a writer, to differentiate turning points from pressure points. To the observer, the machinery isn’t relevant: only the final effect.

Plot works the same way. The average reader isn’t hunting down the details a writer cleverly inserted in order to exploit later. Readers don’t pause to wonder if that event caused this outcome. And no reader will articulate, “Wait. This is right at the end. Isn’t it supposed to be the most exciting part?”

But just as in figure skating, you needn’t be a judge to notice the painful, disheartening mistakes. So like a skater, you should avoid disappointing your audience. Here’s how.

·         Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you can’t generate effective transitions, for example, don’t create a scenario requiring an endless succession of them.

·         Don’t stuff the middle with obvious gimmicks. Readers notice attempts to add fluff or distract with irrelevant plots or characters.

·         Don’t fizzle out at the end. You may be exhausted. But if your audience is still there, your book has to be, too.

·         Do plan. You can get through the first draft or wait until after. At some point, though, you’d better notice how everything fits together. If you don’t, someone else will.

Tip: Leave your audience saying, “I don’t know how she does that. But, wow, that was among the best tricks I’ve ever seen.

The cheers will make the whole thing worth it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.