Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The final stretch

OK, I think I know where I'm going with the last 50 or 60 pages of this novel, before I go back and fill in all the stuff I forgot to include. I'm going with this time-honored literary formula:

1) Anti-climactic near-catastrophe, followed by...

2) Peculiar, rather depressing sex act, giving way to...

3) Deeply sentimental expression of personal generosity, which results in...

4) Replacement of expected denoument with much-diminished, but closely related and somehow, ultimately, superior denoument.

The thing about the ending is, it can't be what you were thinking it was going to be, but it has to be something. Is this going to be the right thing? I don't know. In the end, it might be the only thing. Anyway, it's a thing, and when I write it, I'll have declared draft 1 complete.

Thingward ho!

13 comments:

5 Red Pandas said...

I've found that I find peculiar or unsatisfying sex much more satisfying in fiction that "good sex". I become suspicious when there is too much good sex going on in a novel.

As an aside, I think George Pelecanos writes too many gratuitous "good" sex scenes. Who has time for sex when you're solving a murder?

jrlennon said...

In general, things working out well doesn't lend itself to revealing character. I've been cultivating this anti-romance for the entire book, and it certainly isn't going to culminate in romantic delight. It might be interesting, though...

As for Pelecanos, I find there to be a lot in his writing that's gratuitous. I can usually forgive it, though...

rmellis said...

Man, you need a SPOLIER ALERT at the top of the post!

I can't believe you're finishing another novel. I hate you, btw.

sjwoo said...

You know who writes really good sex scenes? Clive Barker. There's a scene or two in The Damnation Game (which I didn't entirely like -- Weaveworld, on the other hand, kicks ass and takes down names) that are just spectacularly titillating.

Congrats on seeing the light at the end of the novel-tunnel. I wish I could say the same, but I'm still moseying along in darkness. But hey, it's all good, as long as I'm still moving in the right direction. (Which I hope I am -- sometimes it's very, very dark in here.)

jrlennon said...

This isn't a spoiler! That description is as vague as they come, geez!

Sung, moseying in the darkness is a pleasure too...possibly better than the final stretch...that is, if you're confident you'll eventually get to the final stretch.

Sasha said...

Thanks Rhian, J.R. and Ed-- the blog is wonderful, and has given me a new perspective on writing. I've been trolling the archives for a while now, and have been wondering about Rhian's "Your Material" post (April 9, 2008).

Rhian: you wrote that after re-reading your stories from college, you realized they share a common theme--disillusionment. That got me thinking (thanks!), and I've discovered that all mine are about oblivion. But now, I don't know what to do with that knowledge.

What would you do/What have you done? Do you still find yourself harping on a single theme in your work? Is it a strength, or a weakness? Do you run from the theme, or lean into it?

I've got to send a few of my stories out to the same people all at once, and now I'm getting visions of everyone tossing the stories aside, thinking, "whoa, it's like seeing a room full of different women, all wearing capris." ;)

jon said...

can't there be good sex in a novel, if the punishment that follows is severe enough?

jrlennon said...

Ha! You reminded me of a story a writer friend once told me, about a student who has a character drown at the end because he's "guilty of inter-generational sex."

rmellis said...

Sasha, You know, I couldn't see the theme in my stories until I no longer lived the theme in my mind. I no longer feel disillusioned, so the disillusionment in my stories was a kind of obvious anachronism --like looking at an old yearbook and being stunned by the hideousness of the sweaters.

Meanwhile, I don't know what my new theme is, or will be. I think that's okay -- writers don't need to have a handle on everything that's going on in their work. In fact I think it's better to operate on a more intuitive level. Write what feels good, and true. And let readers figure out what you're trying to say.

Thanks for reading the blog!

Jon -- that's a very funny idea!

Zachary Cole said...

Rhian--that's great advice. Lately, I've been trying to keep in mind what Somerville said at the Cornell Q&A. At one point, he explained that trying too hard to be funny or profound can be dangerous to writers.

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