Paying the Viking's Price

Monday, March 21, 2005

Stakes

One thing I notice as I am going through this mss is that I am much more aware of making sure the stakes are raised. Both public and personal. There has to be both. It needs to matter in the larger scheme of things and on a persnal level.
Why should the reader care? Simply putting the hero's life in danger is not enough. There are dozens of stories with that premise. The reader has to care deeply about the character. The character's problems have to resonate with the reader. What are the consequences of the action? How can things be complicated? And how aware the characters of the consequences? What sort of complications arise? How are characters changing? How can the past affect the present? What happens if they fail? How can I convince the reader that they will fail? And yet sow enough seeds that when they triumph, it does not seem to be a deus ex machina.
It is making for a better mss, in my opinion. The answering of the why.
Or the thinking -- something more needs to be here. How can I show this? How can I make sure there is tension on every page? (Okay this really comes at the next stage -- the hard copy reading stage but I am thinking it now as well)
I know this mss has to be better than good. It has to be superlative. It is probably going to be a hard sell. The time period is not the most popular and it may be that the publishers have indeed overbought.
More than that is my own arrogance. I want the reader to hang on the every word, and also to feel they need to know what happens. The other thing I would like is for when the agent reads it -- for the agent to forget she is a professional and simply to be swept into the story.
It is not there yet but it is getting there. I am far happier with it than I was. I think I am getting better at spotting my holes, repetitions, decreases in tension and general not getting it quite right. Also I am less tolerant of my own failings.
It is taking the rough clay of imagination and shaping and moulding into an intricate sculpture. I don't want something crude but something more.
My fond hope is at the end of the mss, the reader will finish with a sigh of satisfaction. And her cup of coffee will have gone cold. She will have a missed a meeting or stayed up too late. That my writing will have become an obession to her.
It is a tall order, but I do live in hope.

3 comments:

Ali said...

A thought provoking piece of prose. Keep up the good work (even if only for my entertainment alone)

Sela Carsen said...

Pressure, much? But if you don't put it on, who will? You have the ability to spur me on to better things, Michelle.

Michelle Styles said...

Thanks for enjoying my ramblings.
And Sela you are so right -- pressure does have to come from within in this business.