Updated: Jan 7, 2019
Imagine you just made me read about something that happened. Some action. Unless someone is telling someone else how they felt about it (that I, the reader, didn’t consider because it wasn’t obvious) or they are lying about it for plot reasons OR are being funny, witty, observant and clever (characterization, revealing new information) then just don’t do it.
I’ve read what happened. You don’t need the protags talking about what just happened because I, the reader, was there and its tedious and takes up space.
Unreliable narrator you say? Aha! Now that’s more like it! Otherwise – scrap!
So we’ve came back to edit. We scrapped. We remade. We shuffled stuff in and around. Oh oh. Now your middle is starting to get cluttered! This is when the plot roughly midway starts stalling out. There’s quite a few things you can do to re-rail things back on track. For instance, you could give the readers some new info on one of the heroes that completely changes the context of their core conflict.
The hate of small children that was almost a running joke by now? His kid died and he’s resentful.
Or add a new obstacle or a complication. Create a new interesting side character. Flesh out more of someones backstory. Boost the action forward.
Or, if nothing fits, shorten the middle, to bring the climax closer.
Avoid making new subplots to make things interesting. It goes nowhere. Except maybe the next sequel of your heptalogy. Do you really have to? Really really have to?
Fine, have it your way. But if I read another novel that has a sub-plot that doesn’t merge itself seamlessly into the climax and just goes nowhere, because the author got bored and lost interest, I swear to the God-Emperor I will stop reading and become an American.
Well, that should conclude my rant for today, I hope you learned som-ahaa! Plot twist! It’s not over yet! Betcha didn’t see that one coming!
And it's incredibly Lame. Hmm wonder why that is? Could it be that I haven’t foreshadowed this or hinted at this coming at all, rewarding those who pay attention?
You’re absolutely right, I shoehorned it in just for the sake of having one.
Does it recontextualize the central conflict?
Does it pull together all the loose ends you left hanging in the story and neatly ties them together?
Does it offer new insight onto one of the characters and gives them a completely new perspective?
If you answered no to all of these questions, a plot twist might not be for you. I know it makes you feel clever, you’re just the only one in the room thinking that.
Finally - a Climax. Must be climactic.
Meaning: it is releasing all the energy expended up until now. The place where we give or deny with no chance of recovery the protag his goal. It can be hilarious. It can be dead serious. But it has to leave a lasting impression, because psychology.
You see, humans don’t remember things how they are while we experience them. Not really. We remember a highlight or two of an experience and then how we felt at the end, averaging out it for later remembrance. That’s why it is crucial to give the reader a climax that will make him run to Amazon and give you those five stars.
So how do you do climaxes? Well. Ironically a great climax is written into everything from the start. It emerges as a sum of all that you made so far.
The stakes you have established during the course of the whole thing is being determined here – now it’s too late to ramp up the tension. The characters use what they have learned or struggle without what they lost earlier on. The antagonist makes its final push or last stand against the heroes using the all the force he can - which you described before. The choices all the characters made come back to haunt or reward them and the final act of defiance or desire must be done.
It really depends on the conflict you were focusing on and here comes your chance to finally state your own opinion on how the Theme (you do have a theme, right?) is resolved. "Women are all liars"; "Nature is the only way"; "Your friends are what makes life worth living"; "Nobody likes fat people"; "Existence is pain to a Meeseeks" – you get the idea.
You don’t have to hammer your point in awkwardly like an episode of Black Mirror, subtle is fine if you make sure to show us the consequences to someone that we care about. Even if not at first apparent, I will walk around thinking about that awesome story I read and what the ending implies, to the question posed. I’ll get it, even if I have to put it down and stare into the fridge for a few seconds first.
Finally: the ending. Sure it can be drawn out and slowly fading, finishing.
With ever decreasing sentences. Focusing on a single.
Last. Element. As the screen...slowly...fades to black.
Or, excellent after the final, mind blowing action sequence where something unexpected happens, you can leave your readers feel brutalized and yearning for more, simply by leaving it off - sudden and abrupt.
Thanks for making it this far, guess you think I have something to say when it comes to writing pointers. Stick around 'cos I have more clever quips to spout!
So long !