Monday, May 18, 2009

Beginnings define Endings define Beginnings

Imagine that a novel is a roadmap that the characters must follow. Before we know anything about the journey, we must know where we’re starting (point A) and where we’re going (point B). If we were taking a trip, we would already know where A is and we would choose B, but a novelist gets to choose both. Now, on a road trip, your starting point tells you nothing about your destination and vise versa. When writing a novel, your selection of one point significantly narrows the possible selection points for the other. A and B are opposites of each other.

Consider a typical romance plot. At Point A, we see an un-content, single, self-sufficient, businesswoman who sleeps with a cat on her bed. At point B, we see a woman on the verge of happily ever after with a man who has helped her with her business and the cat sleeps outside. Whatever the status quo was at the beginning of the book gets turned on its head by the end.

What about Beauty and the Beast? We begin with Beauty a member of a larger family in a small house, little money and no prospects for marriage. We see that she is primarily concerned with the needs of her family. We end the story with Beauty in love with a prince, in a large house, and with someone to care for her. Once more, the status quo is turned around.

It isn’t that we can’t write a story in which things don’t change drastically or we end up at some other point. We can, but when we reverse Point A from Point B the story is stronger, the conflict is tightened, and the accomplishment is greater.