Earlier this year, I had thought I had said everything I had to say about writing, but apparently, I was wrong. In my previous post I had talked about the importance of creating a strong crisis for your main character or characters, followed by the climax, and then the resolution. However, I never got around to talking about the resolution.
Resolutions to stories can be small or large. In “Star Wars 4: A New Hope” after Luke blows up the Death Star and gets away, we go immediately to the resolution with Luke and Han receiving awards for their victory. It’s just a few moments of screen time, followed by the credits. At the end of Episode 6, “Return of the Jedi”, after the destruction of the second Death Star, you get a much longer resolution that resolves various themes such as Leia revealing to Han that Luke is her brother, as well as the incineration of Darth Vader, the spectral images of Anakin Skywalker (better call Ghost Busters), Obi Wan, and Yoda. A longer resolution was necessary for that story, while Episode 4 succeeded better with a shorter resolution.
Here’s the important part: too short of a resolution might disappoint your readers, while too long of one might bore them. You neither want to disappoint, nor bore your readers. That applies not just to the resolution, but to the beginning, the middle, any plot twists and the crisis and climax.
And still, there are other ways you can disappoint your readers. Let’s consider action, for instance. Too much of it can bore your readers, while too little of it can disappoint. What readers really want isn’t just a good story or a good adventure, but good characters. If they cannot relate to your characters, then the story becomes shallow to your readers.
How do you make characters come alive? Well, through their actions, for one. How they react under stress versus how they wish they could react. By whether they stand up for what they believe in versus whether they are too afraid to act. And if they’re afraid to act, why are they afraid to act?
As a reporter, an interviewer, the most powerful question I could ever ask anyone was, “why?” Reporters are taught that the six most important questions to ask are: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. But of those six questions, “Why” addresses motivation.
Motivation is what actors need to know about the characters they represent. “What is my character doing?” an actor asks. “Why is he/she upset? Why does he hit his wife instead of walking away? Why does he run away from her? Why does he want to kill himself? Why do these ghosts from his past haunt him?” (The ghosts can be literal or figurative.)
So, in developing a character’s motivation, Why is the most important question. “Why is she so cold? Why does she turn away from love? Why is she afraid of affection? Why does she sleep with men when she really hates them?” Why, why, why…
“Why” goes to character’s motivation and his/her character development. So, is that all you need? No. Because revealing your characters actions still doesn’t adequately reveal your character. Only dialogue does that.
Why is dialogue so important? Because we humans communicate to each other through words. We talk to our friends and family when we’re with them. We talk on our phones. We Skype. We text. We talk with our hands. We talk with body and facial expressions. Even deaf people talk.
We talk, talk, talk.
And we do it to learn about others and ourselves.
So, dialogue is important. Through dialogue we learn about people. We learn their likes and dislikes. We learn of their fears, their joys, their adventures. We tell jokes and laugh at other people’s jokes. We goof off.
Through dialogue, we develop relationships and grow close.
Dialogue is necessary for moving the story forward. Dialogue is necessary for emotional release. Dialogue creates suspense. Dialogue reveals a character’s inner most workings. For fiction, dialogue is where it’s at.
When you write, always ask yourself “Why”. Not why you write, but why put this scene in? Why have this character? Why have this event? Why this plot twist? Why now and not later?
Good writing comes from thinking long and hard about your story, especially if it’s a novel. Spend every available moment you can thinking about it, always asking “why?” Don’t do it while you’re driving, because it won’t do you or anyone else any good if you kill yourself or others while driving. But, otherwise, think about your story. The more thought about it, the better it will be.
See you out there.