Saturday, June 28, 2008

Where Are We Heading?

Last week, I rode with a friend to a paper crafting class. My friend needed to make one stop first so she drove to where she thought the address was located. We pulled onto the road and noticed the houses were in the 800 range and we needed to find 118.

Clearly, we were heading the wrong direction. We turned around and headed the opposite way. At times, our road ended and we had to pick it up again further down. We drove clear across town and still couldn't find 118 2nd Street.

We examined the information given and both felt it had to be close to where we'd started somehow. Confused, we retraced our steps in a meandering sort of way until I asked for directions to a road that met up with the one we were looking for.

Within a few minutes, we found the house. If we had driven straight up the road where we had originally turned around, we would have reached the end of the road and entered the ladies driveway. The address was located on the road intersecting with 2nd Street, not on 2nd.

What's this got to do with writing? I'm so glad you asked.

Our readers are smart people. They get an idea of where they think our story is heading early on. Many times they're even right. The pull to turn the page lies in not knowing how they will get there, and wondering if, once to the end, it turns out they were wrong.

It's the writer's job to mix in twists and turns, to lead the reader away from the real ending and throw them of track. The direction they think the story is going seems to dead end. They keep reading hoping the writer will bring them back to where they think the story ought to go.

When they can't take much more, we show them a glimpse of the destination. Then we throw them one more small hurdle before finally reaching the end.

This ending has to be satisfying to the reader. We've brought them through a maze and they need closure. Sometimes this will be a happy ending. The one they thought would greet them.

Other times, the ending is a complete shock. They never saw it coming. This one can still be gratifying as long as they see there was no other way. The story had to end this way. With a wistful sigh, they close the book content. They have closure.

Where are we heading and will our readers accept where we lead them? Will they throw the book at the wall or hand it to a friend?

1 comment:

Catherine West said...

Throw the book at the wall??? Wow, I certainly hope not!! LOL. You're right though, sometimes you can pick up a book and know exactly where it's going. I did that with one recently, so bored with the first three chapters I just had to flip to the back to see if I was right. I was. I didn't read the book.
This was a very well-known author and it's really frustrating as a still to be published author to see this kind of thing. Sure I love a happy ending, but give me a little excitement along the way, at least enough to keep me reading beyond chapter three! Okay I'm going before this starts a rant!!!