Earlier this week my daughter decided to enter a short story competition for a school publication and asked me to critique her rough draft. She’s a strong -opinioned type of gal (I have no idea where she gets it from), so I’m always very careful when I send constructive criticism her way. Often, it’s not well received, but this time, I broke protocol.
She created a beautiful fictional story about a young Greek and Trojan who meet during the fall of Troy. I became attached to the characters and invested in their star-crossed woes. I almost fell out of my chair, however, when after facing many trials together, my young authoress ended her story in one sentence with the death of the hero.
No! Not acceptable! (Unless you’re J.J. Abrams, and even then it still makes me mad).
We had a long discussion (read: argument) where I told her that after the climax of a plot, there has to be a denouement/resolution. Yes, you don’t want the denouement to drag on and on, but there does have to be one. She did not concur and we’ve agreed to disagree. Reading between the lines, I got the impression that she’d written herself into a corner and didn’t think a $25 Barnes and Noble card was worth the time it would take to struggle through this tough part of her story.
This debacle reminded me of something I’d recently read in Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat! (I know, I know. You’re saying, “Will she ever shut up about that book?” No). For him, the hardest part of a manuscript is the end of Act Two, when “the forces that are aligned against the hero, internal and external, tighten their grip. Evil is not giving up, and there is nowhere for the hero to go for help. He is on his own and must endure.”
For me, the hardest part of the book is the crisis and character development in the middle of a manuscript. I either tend to meander, going off on tangents about the scenery and side plots, or under-develop, having played out a scene in my head so many times I can’t see it from my reader’s point of view.
|"Never, never, never give up."|
All of us have our weak spots when we write. What is the oh-so-wise Snyder’s advice when we come to these blocks? “There’s no method to get through other than to just muscle your way.” In other words, fight, don’t give up. Keep thinking, obsessing and replaying a scene in your mind until a moment of enlightenment comes. Then, Snyder says, the answer will seem so obvious that you’ll wonder how you didn’t see it in the first place.
This leads me back to the primal axiom of writing. Those who succeed are those who don’t give up. No matter what. If you're thinking about giving up on a manuscript, article, or other writing project that's driving you crazy, don't! Be stubborn and enlightenment