Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Putting the Mojo Back in Your Story

“What fails isn’t material or experience but energy, the imaginative energy to dig down deeply into your subject, where the truth about it lies, the artistic energy to form what you find there as it should be formed, and finally the brute physical energy -- to put it in words on paper.” -- John Knowles in “Master Class for Writers.” [The Writer’s Guide to Fiction from The Writer Magazine, 2007]

I participated in a discussion on this topic a few weeks ago. I wish I’d read this quote then. An author speculated about why novels (including the one he was working on) tended to sag in the middle. He felt the three-act model was to blame. Today’s quote was what I attempted to say, but I didn’t get the point across. The problem wasn’t the format. It was a loss of interest in the character by the author. Neither the author nor the character had anything to say to the reader.

There's another quote by a famous author (once again, my memory fails me) that addresses this. He said -- and I paraphrase -- if your story has slowed, have someone enter the room carrying a gun. Okay, it doesn’t have to be a gun. It can be an ex-fiance, an abusive husband who recently got out of jail, a policeman, or any character or object that presents a new challenge for your protagonist. The idea is to give the character a new obstacle to the achievement of her goal, one that she must deal with before she can move forward in the story, one that stirs the author's creativity and curiosity.

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