Thursday, September 11, 2008

There is more than the end of the book


Don't forget the Marketing Your Fiction Class. We start soon. Get registered if you want more on query letter, researching editors and agents and certainly the dreaded synopsis.

Also, the Category Romance Challenge begins in October. Details are on the website.

Lastly, I am still eager to find some great Mills and Boon Modern Heat Stories.

I think all writers are all over part of this concept.

"There is more to your book than what happens after page 1 and after the last page."

The problem is, as I see stories come across my desk, the only part writers seem to have figured out (and personally, not that well) is the part in the beginning. Writers seem to be all over the "back story" of their characters and apparently have no problem with piling that up in the story. As I read these stories, I find out that I know more about these characters than I would ever need, or for that matter would want to know. This, however, is not as big as the issue at the other end of the book.

I thin that most writers seem to think that when they hit that final scene, the book is over. WRONG. If you take a look at any number of really good books out there, the reader has a sense that the story will go on and the characters, if this was a happily ever after book, will succeed. Unfortunately, what I have seen lately is far from that.

Many of the relationships I have seen writers create are so built around the conflict that without it, I just don't see the relationship continuing. We need to see that there was more than just simply the conflict, and in the case of the romance, the sex. We need to see that the characters have more to live for and that this situation is not simply a fluke or one night stand.

Your homework now is to consider the end of the book. More to the point, consider what you have put in the middle of the book to set the end in motion. Do you see where the characters are heading to? Do they have a life after this that REALLY WILL SUCCEED. I know you tell us but will it truthfully work? If not fix it.

And by the way. Just adding an epilogue after the last chapter is not enough. We wouldn't need something that says "12 years later..." for us to get that they are happy. Make us know it when we close that last page.



  1. Scott,

    How do you balance a romantic conflict between 'enough conflict' for the category houses and 'too much for the relationship to have a realistic chance at sucess' after the last page?

    I find this to be a particularly challenging element of the short category format. One the one hand, if your book is full of HUGE conflict (I've seen everything from homeless heroines to international money laundering schemes), it seems you have little time to develop your characters in any normal way---you're too busy blowing up things and inserting research elements to make the plot believable. But on the other hand, if you have a book full of dinner dates and rocking on the back porch, it's too boring and you, and presumably your readers, want to strangle the characters.

    Is there an ideal (percentage) balance of the day to day and the extraordinary?

    Also, it seems to me that some of the plots out there are so infused with jet fuel they have to be thrown into the "contrived/this would never in a million years happen pile." Yet, they get published every day. It leaves me wondering if perhaps readers are willing to completely suspend their disbelief even in romance.

    I know it's not an easy question, and I realize it has a lot to do with the artistry of the writer, but it's very frustrating to get a handle on where the line actually is.

    Thanks for all your great posts.

  2. Hum. This would address a major complaint against the romance genre-the characters have every reason to dislike each other until half to two thirds of the way through the story, when the author summarily annouces that they have simultaneously discovered a "once in a lifetime love," and that the always-gorgeous hero is suddenly ready to fight to the death for the right to change dirty diapers and come home to the same old shrew every night for the next hundred years.
    Not buying it.For a lovely & beautiful transition from wariness to love, see once again "The Last Samurai," and the way in which, in scenes lasting only a few seconds, we see the character's feelings toward each other began to change. in particular, the part in which Cruise apologizes to Taka, and her whole face and being open to him, like a flower. That is some gorgeous screenwriting and cinematography.
    As for how bad can things get in any one book, I found that reading "The Breakout Novel Workbook," the kind of thing I avoid like death, ordinarily, made a profounf difference in my attitude toward plotting. Donald Maass would say things can always get much worse. But I agree with the writer above-it seems as if readers would rather roll their eyes than be bored. Go figure.

  3. Re: epilogs,

    I HATED JK Rowling's epilog in book 7. I never felt Ron and Hermione would make a good couple. For god's sake, they were fighting ALL THE TIME.

    Would you want this kind of relationship forever?

  4. Lateia,

    Good question on conflict. I personally don't think there is an easy answer to this one other than common sense. I guess if I did have to pin down a point, if the entire plot is nothing but the conflict then you have a problem.

    Wish I could be more help but that is the best I have. As far as a percentage would be 50-50

  5. Anon,

    You are right on the money about the relationships that have nothing in common. I think the stronger approach writers should take is to start with characters that really would come together in a normal circumstance. The thing that is standing in the way would be the conflict.

    I agree though. Seeing two characters that would never come together and fall in love seems a bit out there for me.

  6. I agree there on the Ron and Hermione thing. Sure we saw some tension but I think it could have been better developed throughout the books. It was hinted at with the Goblet of Fire and she yelled at him for not asking her to the dance but it needed to be built up even more.