Friday, July 7, 2017

All traditional novels employ narration and action to tell a story.

All traditional novels employ narration and action to tell a story. An action scene is made up of three parts:
  • A meeting between two opposing forces.
  • An exploitation of the conflict in the scene.
  • A suggestion as to the result of the meeting.
The result of the meeting, which is either a resolution of the conflict or a deepening of the conflict, which sets up the transition to the next scene or a big scene later in the book. The reason for bringing two opposing forces together in a big scene is to create conflict. Because of the conflict, somebody:
  1. Wins, loses, or concedes a point, 
  2. Is forced to make a decision.
  3. Is made to realize something about themselves, which they did not know.
  4. Understands something new about the complication that produced the big scene in the first place.
In other words, something has to happen.

“Good and Evil” meet and “Evil” deals “Good” a temporary setback. They will meet again. If you're not sure, whether something should be a big scene or not, examine who's in it and what happens. If the scene involves two opposing forces, it should be a major scene.

As my mentor, the late writer Gary Provost said,
"A novel isn't everything that happened.
It's every important thing that happened."

The most important combination of techniques in writing action is the use of anticipation, suspense and surprise. Without these, your fiction is boring. These three techniques should appear in that order. Anticipation should lead to suspense, which then allows for a surprising resolution.

The anticipation grows from what readers had been led to believe is true so far. For example, the body of a fourth London prostitute is found with her throat cut with a surgical scalpel. In the case of Jack, the Ripper, this information would create anticipation. Readers know either Jack, or his son or someone pretending to be Jack should be the killer.

The search for the killer creates the suspense. "Will the Chief Inspector catch him? How many prostitutes will die before he is captured? Is Jack really the killer?"

As the writer, you blend your characters, story and plot to the readers’ expectation. You delay, mislead, misdirect and build the factor of suspense. Ultimately, suspense leads to the surprise, which ends the book. For example, Jack turns out to be a woman who hated her mother. Alternatively, Jack escapes, but the about-to-be latest victim is saved.

When the book ends, the facts, clues and incidents combine to prove the resolution is logical. Although readers might have predicted what would happen, they are surprised. The anticipation and suspense make the novel work and conclude in a satisfying manner.

The anticipation, suspense, surprise formula does not have to apply only to mysteries.

In science fiction, for example, readers can anticipate the protagonist will discover the Moon Men are descendants of Earth people. The suspense builds as our hero tries to communicate with them and discovers their hidden lab.

The surprise comes when we learn the Moon Men are women, are plants or are merely holograms left by an explorer from the past.

In romance, the anticipation is obvious: will they get together? The suspense builds. They don't like each other at first. They work together, and the surprise comes when she learns he is widowed, not married.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews