Friday, January 28, 2011

Note to Self: Make it PAY!

You remember in The Hunger Games when the tributes all ride their chariots in a parade into--a stadium? Was that what it was? I don't even remember for sure. What I DO remember is how I felt about it.

"Yes! That's so awesome! There's hope for the heroes!"

That's what I call a payoff. It makes the reader feel something good, whether it be exciting, hopeful, poignant or whatever, it's a high point in the story. When you invest your time and emotional energy to read a novel, it's nice to get something back from it. In fact no one (masochists and academics excepted) will read a book that doesn't give them some sort of pleasure. (Forced reading in school excepted, as well.)

The same goes for music. The very best, most listenable songs and compositions follow a pattern veeeery similar to the classic story form.

We all know the story form, right? Well, it's not just a beginnning, middle, and end with a single climax. At least, not in my mind. You see, no one's going to get to the climax if there aren't smaller payoffs all along the way. They can be anything from little oh-that's-cools to full on stand-up-and-cheers.

And when they all tie into the mother-of-all-payoffs at the end in a way that the reader doesn't see coming but makes perfect sense when it hits—IT'S TOTALLY RADICAL!

Note to Self:  Give your readers several big climactic scenes throughout the book. (It works out nicely if they're at the end of each part.) Don't save it all for the end or no one will get there. Don't give it all up early! Save the very best for the end, but make them cheer for the hero all the way through the book, even if the hero is getting the snot beat out of herself.

Just as a series of novels each have their own climax, the parts of a novel need their own climaxes, and each chapter, too! It's a flaming fractal!

More about chapters to come.

(Oh, man. I've been dying to use the word "radical" again for like twenty years.)

2 comments:

  1. Radical? That's dope, man. Totally sick.

    On a related note, our dictionary would be pretty bizarre if you included all the slang definitions.

    Sick; (adj); 1:unappealing as in gross or disgusting.
    2: Impressive as in great or amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree. I have so little time for reading that I'm not going to waste it on a book that doesn't grab my imagination (or 'pay off') pretty quick.

    ps "masochists and academics" is a little redundant, don't you think?

    ReplyDelete