Tuesday, April 27, 2010

And so to bed.

Since I haven't give him anything to do in years, Evan Marshall has probably forgotten that he's my literary agent. But he seems to be doing okay with his other clients, his own series of mystery novels, and his first-class multimedia endeavors to teach fiction writing, through books, software, and an indispensable website, Write a Novel Fast. Try it.

One memorable piece of advice I picked up from Evan was never to end a chapter with a character going to bed. (To sleep, that is.) The goal of any mystery or thriller -- or any book at all, for that -- is to keep the reader turning those pages, desperate to know what happens next. Closing a chapter with the end of a day is like handing the reader a bookmark. And, as Evan points out, since many people do their reading in bed before going to sleep themselves, you're making it all too easy for them to put the book down and turn the light off.

But I just broke that rule, deliberately. (As opposed to the times before I read Evan's wisdom, when I did it in sheer blissful ignorance.) I decided to cut my planned final chapter into two. (I know, the fragmentation of this draft is getting a bit like Zeno's paradox, with Achilles never managing to catch up with that bloody tortoise.) And today, I completed Chapter 22 (3,000 words), which wraps up the mystery.

It ends with my protagonists, Oliver and Effie, going to bed to, er, celebrate the successful conclusion of the murder investigation -- a little scene that, in my not-so-humble opinion, is the perfect blend of eroticism and restraint, reflective of the similar final moment of Murdering Ministers. (In that book, Oliver and Effie were sharing a bath at the end.) You might well expect the words "THE END" to follow. Go ahead, go to sleep. As the commentator* said, "They think it's all over."

Only the sharp-eyed might have spotted the hint that there's just a little more to come. And you might need a good night's sleep first, because it's going to surprise you. (And that's tomorrow's writing assignment.)

*Kenneth Wolstenholme, just after Geoff Hurst had scored his third goal in the 1966 World Cup final, giving England their 4-2 win over West Germany. Happy days.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds intriguing, Alan! Tricia and Alan.