Monday, September 10, 2007


Our critique group met last night and I thought it was a better than usual night mostly because something that has been floating around in my head was totally confirmed - for me and actually I think for Sinead.

Every book needs a sense of impending doom. It's not only the WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT question that keeps pages turning. The WHEN IS THIS ALL GOING TO FALL APART question that also works.

It is of course hingent on that thin thin line of dramatic irony. For this question to work the reader has to know or suspect something that the character doesn't....wait a second, that's not even true - that book that Maureen and Sinead love - Something Blue - that hinges TOTALLY on when is the shit going to hit the fan regarding this woman's affair with her best friend's fiancee? The main character knows the poop and fan are going to meet - she just keeps at it anyway -- But THAT creates a seriously thin line between I'm totally invested in this character's delimma and this character is a total idiot. I leaned toward the idiot - Sinead and Maureen went the other way. I totally digress - Maureen is at the film festival (feel free to curse her - Sinead and I are) so I am taking on her tangents.


I think most books benefit from a little of the when is this all going to fall apart dramatic tension. It's why romantic suspense writers use the villian POV, and it's working really well in that subgenre. But last night - my scenes were all working - lots conflict and tension but as Sinead pointed out - no doom. It's about getting the two questions working together - the what and when. As for Sinead I think I gave her bad critique months ago and said something along the lines of "if the reader already suspects - why drag it out?" Stupid me. Dragging it out for dramatic irony is the point.


Anonymous said...

I really, really agree about the impending doom. The reader can know what's about to happen, can anticipate the shit hitting the fan, can even guess the secret the writer is trying to keep, as long as the scene where all is revealed is really, really satisfying.
So when the shit does hit the fan, that scene, has to be fantastic.

Ps. You didn't give me a bad critique. I had the reveal too late, and then I moved it too early..

Now I know.. It was a good session last night, or are we thinking that cause it was all our stuff?

Unknown said...

That is a brilliant way of describing it Molly! It is all about the impending doom, and waiting to see how the characters are going to react when it finally happens.

I'm going to write that and put it above my desk.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Yeah - it is about getting that fan meets poop scene just right - but if you do get it - it's so satisfying.

Thanks Christine! Glad it works for you too!

Alli Sinclair said...

Great post, Molly (I'm a writing buddy of Maureen's and lurk around DWT a lot!). I often wondered if knowing it is inevitable the poop will hit the an dampens a story. But as you described it, knowing this can make you turn the pages.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Hey Alli! I really do think it depends on the story -- but a certain element of that - say, knowing the heroine's internal conflict and how the hero is going to stomp all over that - can usually help any romance.

M. said...

bypassing your intriguing main point which i'm still mulling, i'm going to focus on a detail:

excellent word, 'hingent'. is it yours, molly? i am itching to include it in my semi regular posts on new word creations and i like to attribute accurately.


Molly O'Keefe said...

Hey Maya! I didn't come up with that word - no sir. Not smart enough.

Maureen McGowan said...

This is interesting... but maybe it just comes down to conflict once again. Creating a sense of impending doom may be simply one way of creating conflict?

And on the whether the reader knows or the character... That depends on POV, I think. It is all different if you write in first person (like Emily Giffen does in your example). That's why I think it's smart to consider what the story is and who will know what when before deciding whether to write in first person or third... Just like writers decide which POV character to put a scene in in 3rd person narratives, it's important to think of the implications of whether the reader or the character will know things first in 1st person. That's why the present vs past tense decision is so important in 1st person books, IMHO.

Maureen McGowan said...

Boy that comment was incoherent... I might think about this some more and use it as my DWT post this week.

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