If I had written this post at 3 AM this morning I when woke up and thought about it, it would’ve been a lot easier than now to write. Then, I was on fire with words and ideas. Now, not so much.
But I didn’t want to squander my sleep.
See, a view weeks back, I was up ’til 4 AM every morning, working on my new novel, “Ryder Mann.” When I wasn’t writing, I was editing. And when I wasn’t editing, I was writing. And in between, I did research. However, that cut a few hours out of my nightly sleep. And when you lessen your sleep time, you eventually pay for it.
There were days when I didn’t want to do anything but sleep. So, I wasted time those days that I could’ve made more profitable by doing yard work, or spending time with my dad, who’s more than a hundred years old. And I was also too tired to write or even watch movies with my family.
So, what did I want to talk about?
Several things. At the top of the list is knowing how to end your story. If you’ve read any books about writing, watched anything online about writing fiction, or taken any classes or seminars, you know that as you approach the end, you come to the crisis which leads immediately into the climax (this is not sex we’re talking about, so don’t get distracted!), which is followed immediately by the resolution.
The crisis is where things are going south for your main character. Now, your main character is the one that changes (or grows) the most. If he/she doesn’t change, you’ve got the wrong main character. So, as things get worst for your hero, the crisis occurs when he or she comes to an either/or, yes/no decision. (Now some writers try to make that crisis more complex, trying to make a multiple choice situation. When you do that, you confuse your reader. And if that’s your goal, fine. But the danger to you is that your reader won’t want to read anything of yours EVER again. It’s best to stick with the yes/no, either/or choice.) And when the hero reaches the crisis, there’s always, ALWAYS, a penalty.
Here’s an example: The hero is arguing with her daughters, who riding in the back seat of her car. Caught up in the argument, she drifts across the center line. A car coming the other way honks at her and she yanks the wheel hard away, steering her car out of the other car’s path. But she over-corrects and the car goes off the road, through guard rail and down into a deep a lake. All three are momentarily stunned by the impact with the guard rail and then the collision with the water. When your hero comes to, she realizes the car’s filling with water. In moments, it’ll be too deep for anyone to get out . She can only save one daughter. Which one does she save? The Climax is when she saves one and let’s the other die. And that’s also the penalty, losing someone you love.
There has to be consequences for all characters. The main character must give up something of value in order to grow.
Now, the example I gave is more likely the beginning of a good story than the end. Then, of course, everything that main character does will be governed by the loss suffered in the decision. Her guilt will cripple her, until there comes a time when she has to let got of that guilt and become fearless. Or die. Sometimes, the main character has to sacrifice herself in order to grow. Then the lost becomes the reader’s loss, but the reader will fill fulfilled by the story.
In my novel, “Sky Knights”, about space fighter pilots defending the human colonial world of Eos from an alien invasion, my main character, Hector Crossman, is a very spiritual man. Now, anyone who enjoys a beautiful sunset or beautiful music, or the love of friends, your partner or wife, or of your family, and is grateful for all of that, is having a spiritual experience, something that transcends material existence.
Hector’s spirituality comes in his love for flying. But Hector’s spirituality is challenged by the war he’s been inserted into. Through constant battles, he comes to realize the lives of his friends and squadron mates are in jeopardy from the brutality of the alien invaders. So, in order to protect his friends better, he begins a one-man quest to kill enough of the enemy until they stop killing humans on Eos.
He goes from the light, spirituality, into darkness. He’s filled with fear at first. Then that fear becomes hate, which clouds everything. He ends up not just hating the enemy, but his friends and his lover, and eventually, even himself. He even hates flying.
But he doesn’t want to hate anymore. He wants to be free from hate. He want’s to love flying, to love his friends, to love his sweetheart. But he doesn’t know how anymore.
Then the Crisis happens. There’s a big battle. Everyone is involved. Friendly ground forces are cut off and Hector is tasked with protecting them. But everyone he loves is at risk. He has to decide whether to protect the ground troops he’s been ordered to take care of, or saving his friends. But each of his friends is in a different dangerous situations Now, this could be a multiple choice crisis here, but going to any of his friends means leaving the others and the ground troops he needs to guard, to die. What it really comes down to is, “Do your duty” or “Abandon your duty.”
In the end, he choses to do his duty. And he suffers the consequences for it.
That’s what makes a good story.
Hector learns that he’s one man and one man cannot save the whole world or even the universe, he can only affect the part that he exists in. He loses so many people that he loves, but he grows from the experience. He lets go of his fear. That’s how he can make that decision.
When you’re writing, be adult about it. Let your characters (and hence, your readers) suffer. And let your characters (and your readers) grow.
Fiction allows readers to process the world the world they live in through the ideas and ideals your characters believe in and the suffering they experience. If you grow from your writing, so will your readers. So, don’t be afraid to grow.
See you out there.