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Fiction Plotting 4/4
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Fiction Plotting 4/4
BookMarc #12 Plot
After all the ups and down and sufferings of our journey
up Plot-line Mountain, we are now ready for the denouement.
The big finale. But before we do that, we can take one more
step. We ease off a bit. We want things to finally appear to
be going Protag’s way. This is a set up. It might
even seem formalistic. But it makes the finale that much more
satisfying for the reader, which is what we’re all
about. This is of the same variety as a movie where the
villain is shot and presumed dead, and when the hero is making
out with the girl, the bad guy looms up in the background. I
think this fits all genres, especially mysteries, fantasies,
and thrillers, but it does require finesse. It works as long
as we avoid clichés and anything that looks like it was
just stuck on at the end. Remember we said that if a device
becomes obvious it loses it's effectiveness.
Okay, Protag has broken out of the trees and brush and
brambles. Only a fifty-foot grassy slope awaits him till the
summit, where there’s a helicopter ready to whisk him to
safety, wine, women, and song. The sun is shining. The air
is clear. The birds are singing. Everyone can relax.
Protag has it made.
Ten feet further on a ten thousand pound grizzly jumps
out. Carrying a rifle. The one that's been shooting at
him. A great altercation takes place whereby there is weeping
and gnashing of teeth--talk about Cliché City--as well as
kicking and clawing and punching and pinching, until finally,
ta da, our stout-hearted Protag miraculously, but logically,
folks, always logically, overcomes the bear. Or,
alternatively, Protag could lose the fight and gain great
insight on what a bear's stomach looks like. We’re
not like those phony Hollywood guys; we can take the tough
See? By easing off a bit, it makes the final
confrontation more vivid. If a thunderstorm slips in on a
cloudy day, who notices? But have the sun suddenly blackened
by an anvil cloud and you've made an impression.
Remember when we talked of Dean Koontz’s monster in Tick
Tock? Well, near the book's end, the hero reaches a safe
house. And it's almost morning when the monster will
die. The hero is home-free. But guess who comes knocking at
So that’s it. Once the climax is over, get out.
"Protag rides off into the sunset." Over, done with.
Don’t drag it out. "Protag stopped at Aunt
Martha’s for a piece of blueberry pie, washed his horse,
polished his boots, and rode off into the sunset, meeting a
blond with a figure like a brick excrement house, whereupon he
altered his destination for Cliché City." Once the main
questions of the story are worked out, we don't hang
around to bore our reader. Remember the last movie episode of
Lord of the Rings? There had to be five or six places where I
thought the story was ending, but it kept going on forever.
Boooooring. Better to leave our readers wanting a little more
rather than feel overstuffed.
I think we need one last caution. Big caution.
The ending has to be satisfying. Happy or sad, the ending
should leave the reader satisfied he made the journey with
you. Fail to do that and the next time out, you might journey
alone. For instance, I read a book once where a Bad Guy
destroyed everything Protag had at the beginning, made Protag
do his bidding throughout the book, and near the end the
Protag got the bad guy's money--hoo rah--but at the very
end, the bad guy got the money back and Protag got zilch. Now
I know what the writer was doing, building things up for the
next story in his trilogy. Weeell, I think you can do this
between chapters, but not between books. I didn't read
the next installment of this writer's trilogy. Since he
left me swinging in the wind once, why would I journey with
him again? Please, save yourself from this mistake. Each
book has to be complete in itself.
Does this mean everything needs to be tied up at the end?
No. Real life isn't like that. If two lovers finally
get together and express their love at the end of a story, do
we need to show them getting married and having kids as well?
No. That's something for the reader's imagination.
But we better make damn sure we tie up all the main questions
of the novel. As a teacher of mine--David Hoof--liked to
point out, we make a contract with our readers with the first
sentence of our book. Better make sure we keep it at the
I think that’s everything I know about plotting.
We'll have things to say about handling different kinds
of stories as we continue on the journey, but for now we need
to move onto the second leg of the writing tripod: plot;
characterization; effective writing. See you in BookMarc #13,
when we take up Characterization, part 1 of 6 parts
Peter E. Abresch - BookMarc© February 13, 1998. Updated
September 13, 2014
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