About Those Resolutions

Hello 2016, Goodbye 2015, Happy New Year everyone!

I’m here to confess another little tidbit. I’m an amateur guitar player. I’m very serious about being an amateur, I’ve been doing this for close to 30 years now. Never had the time, nor the inclination to become professional about this either. It’s too much practice if we want to get down to it, and quite frankly, I am not one to play for a crowd of any kind, so why bother? So yeah, I can pull off some pretty nice tunes (rhythm guitar, forget solos), but that’s just for me, myself and I.

It’s a real kick for me to succeed in playing a riff I like. If I can pull it off, it doesn’t really matter if it’s just part of a song with 10 more riffs. It’s about the chord progression. If I can make it from chord 1 to chord 3, or 8 or whatever without messing it up, I’m satisfied. Those in my immediate proximity might be very irritated until that happens, but what can you do…

Great chord progressions start somewhere, go through some turmoil and can only end with a resolution. You might not understand what I’m saying, but trust me, every riff you like is resolved one way or the other. It’s that chord, or note that let’s you release that breath you were holding. That final note that, only once played, a new progression starts. It’s the progression of different notes that takes you on an emotional ride and the resolution is the satisfying end. It could very well be a surprise, but it is absolutely satisfying.

Stories are like chord progressions. They too, have a beginning, middle and end. They too, take you on an emotional ride, and… yes, they too, should be resolved in a satisfying way.

What does it mean to resolve a story?

Well, stories (good ones) are based – in a nut shell – on the gap between what a character wants, and the hand that life deals her. That creates problems. These problems need to be resolved by the time we put the book down.

Otherwise, we remain frustrated.

Note, that I keep using the terms “resolve” and “satisfy“. These absolutely do not mean that every problem is resolved to our hero’s best interests. It does not mean a “happy end” and it does not even mean our hero stays alive…

It only means that every question raised during this emotional ride gets answered in a logical (logical within the story) and believable way. No loose ends. No little sub plot left hanging. No “leave it to the readers” as in – let them write the end of the story. Yeah, an end might leave things for the reader to ponder, but it’s up to the writer to answer the main questions, to show how each story line ends – even if the end is not absolute (say, a couple gets married – we don’t necessarily have to know if they stay together or have kids [Only if it’s directly tied to an open story question]).

Think about the best books you’ve read. They may differ in many ways, from style to subject matter. One thing I absolutely guarantee they have in common – being great – is that they are all resolved with a satisfying ending.

I sincerely hope that 2015 is ending in a very satisfying way for all of you – and this time I do mean a happy ending. Let’s all ride into the sunset with the loot and the girl, and live happily ever after.

Happy 2016 everyone,

 

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Someone Call Billie Joe Armstrong

Hi everyone.

Not sure why, but this September has been very slow on this here blog. Well, I do have some pretty convincing reasons, not the least of which is being a busy little bee, plotting a novel. I also, you know, work and otherwise committed to householdy things, so there’s that. But even if I did have the time to sit and actually write a post, it seems like my brain (or that  part of it in charge of coming up with things to say) was as foggy as the Georgia skies have been these past weeks.

And so, I find myself humming Green day’s tune “Wake me up when September ends”.

Although the original video for this song can be considered a leading candidate for “cheesiest video in history” award, the lyrics say something else. They talk about transformation, which is what we’re here to talk about.

Quick shout-out before we continue to Christina, whose workshop – the 60/60 method is as good as it gets. A real eye opener!

I rarely “promote” anything, so when I do, you should know it’s something of real value. Not your usual “come see what a great writer I am” scheme. This is the real deal folks. Ask me and I’ll say (a lot) more.

The reason I bring this up is that I was reminded again, that transformation is THE heart of our writing adventure.

It’s pretty clear that the most significant lines in this song are:

Here comes the rain again
Falling from the stars
Drenched in my pain again
Becoming who we are

Change is not easy (Well, no shit Sherlock). But transformation, a real change that make one who s/he turns out to be? That – in most cases – involves pain. It could be an agonizing, seemingly unbearable pain, or a sudden jolt. It could last a long time, or not. But while sitting comfortably, we rarely come to any real revelation. Why would we? If we’re nice and cozy – what’s the motivation?

That’s true in fiction to an even greater extent.

If in real life, the pain can vary depending on the individual and their tolerance, in fiction we simply can’t settle for anything less than dramatic. Losing a job in this day and age could be extremely difficult and bring about severe repercussions. That would be a heart wrenching story. In a newspaper article.

In a book, losing one’s job (and I am generalizing here) doesn’t quite cut it. As opposed to real life, where we wish everyone a smooth journey to happiness, as writers of fiction, we cannot expect a reader to accept a transformation based on something less than dramatic. Nor can the reader accept a transformation based on a single event as tragic as it is.

Come to think about it, there’s a lot to be said about real life transformations, in comparison to fiction. But that is for another post.

Just like Billie Joe, some things must come to pass and our hero must be drenched in pain before emerging, renewed.

  • How was your life transformed?
  • How was you your hero’s?

Let me know what you think and otherwise feel free to comment and share the pain.

That’s all for today, wake me up when September ends.

But what about the reader?

Welcome back folks, no time for much preamble as we have a score to settle here!

I told you I was writing and I wasn’t lying when I said that either. Now, in our little writers group we had a little debate. See, when you write, there are two things you need to know very well:

One is what you – as a writer want to accomplish. What do you want happening in that chapter you write? What do you want to show the reader? How are you going to move your story forward?

The other thing you need to know is what does your character want. What does she want to accomplish?

Without knowing that, precious time might be awasting… You might write some really nicely crafted paragraphs that would amount to not much more than fluff.

Now, we all read Stephen king, and if you didn’t, I suggest you get going! And we know that the most important person related to a story is – The reader.

And so, the question was raised – should we not think about the reader?

But of course! We most definitely should. Otherwise, we might as well write a nice journal. You know.

“Woke up this morning at 6:34 am, brushed my teeth and ate half a piece of toast with my primrose teas.”

Yup, the kind only we would ever read.

But here’s the thing.

You can control your character – after all, you created the little bugger.
You can control your story – You – and only you – should know what you’re going to tell.
You absolutely cannot. Repeat – cannot, control the reader. Nor should you. You’re (hopefully) not a control freak! The reader will read your story and feel whatever the hell she does.
You can use many devices and stylistic measures to “nudge” the readers in the direction you think they should go. There’s a lot to be said about settings, dialogue, dramatic irony and whatnot. But that is all you can do.

You can’t seriously believe your role as a writer is to tell the reader what to think and how to feel, can you? Cause if you do, here’s a suggestion. write a paragraph before every chapter with directions.

“In this next chapter, I’d like you to be afraid. Be very afraid! Bwahahhaha!”

Seriously now, as the irritatingly popular song goes – Let it go, let it go.

It’s your story until it’s the readers’ story.

Consider this – before you publish – If you’d like to set a mood, it’s up to you to write it that way. Once you have. You did your part. Now the reader didn’t tell you what to do, right? So don’t tell her. She knows. Just write your damn story already! Keep the reader in mind when you decide how to tell it, but for the love of Isaac, let it go.

So there we are. I had my say. Now while I go on writing in the free world, feel free to tell me what you think. There’s a nice little comments box right here.

Once upon a time…

Does this sound familiar? How many stories did we read, that started with this line?

As previously reported, my outline is as complete as can be. I could wait until I have it reviewed, fixed, re-reviewed and fixed again and again before I start writing. To be honest (and why would I start a blog if I wasn’t going to be honest?), I cannot wait!

I might have to re-write every single word later, but I absolutely HAVE to start writing.

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