Painting From Corners and Cutting Off Branches


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Painting From Corners and Cutting Off Branches

By Nandy Ekle

 

 

I love a good mystery show, especially if it has a twist. And sometimes the biggest twist is actually no twist at all. Here’s how it works.

You begin building the story in the usual way, introduce the character who is amazingly handsome and brilliant but who also has a sad little flaw. He reveals this flaw but justifies himself by listing the rules he has set for himself to control it. Then we go through a day or two of his life to see how it works. As the action/drama builds, we suddenly realize there is no way out for our character. He either has to break his own rules, or he has to give up. The more the story progresses, the tighter the noose gets and we are sure he’s about to be undone. Finally, at the end, just before he gives up, the light comes on and you realize what was forgotten. One of the smaller rules in his self-imposed control. As soon as that loophole opens up, he wins and lives happily ever after.

But then there’s the story line where he has to cut off his nose to spite his face. This is the character who does everything right. But the problems he faces grow huge enough and chase him out on a branch. You know he will have to do something, but everything he tries is thwarted. And in the end, he has to cut the branch he’s hanging from and drop to the abyss. But the twist is that he only drops a couple of feet. That’s when you gulp a deep breath of air and fall back in your chair.

This is great writing.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Painting From Corners and Cutting Off Branches


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

Painting From Corners and Cutting Off Branches

By Nandy Ekle

 

 

I love a good mystery show, especially if it has a twist. And sometimes the biggest twist is actually no twist at all. Here’s how it works.

You begin building the story in the usual way, introduce the character who is amazingly handsome and brilliant but who also has a sad little flaw. He reveals this flaw but justifies himself by listing the rules he has set for himself to control it. Then we go through a day or two of his life to see how it works. As the action/drama builds, we suddenly realize there is no way out for our character. He either has to break his own rules, or he has to give up. The more the story progresses, the tighter the noose gets and we are sure he’s about to be undone. Finally, at the end, just before he gives up, the light comes on and you realize what was forgotten. One of the smaller rules in his self-imposed control. As soon as that loophole opens up, he wins and lives happily ever after.

But then there’s the story line where he has to cut off his nose to spite his face. This is the character who does everything right. But the problems he faces grow huge enough and chase him out on a branch. You know he will have to do something, but everything he tries is thwarted. And in the end, he has to cut the branch he’s hanging from and drop to the abyss. But the twist is that he only drops a couple of feet. That’s when you gulp a deep breath of air and fall back in your chair.

This is great writing.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

The End


POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE

The End

By Nandy Ekle

 I need to end my story. I brought the character through the adventure, but at the critical point, she just froze in mid air. Now, a year later, I need to bring the whole thing together to end it.

I know a character has to want something. The whole point of a story is to illustrate a character pursuing a desire. They might want a relationship with a lover. They might want a new career. They might want safety, health, recognition, or even invisibility. And so they strike out on an adventure to get what they want.

The next element of a good story is something blocking their way. This problem could be in the form of a natural disaster, such as a tornado or hurricane. It could be another person, such as a wicked witch or an evil step-mother. Or the problem could be within the character herself. She might want the thing, but be afraid to get it or have a feeling of unworthiness.

Another element is the theme of the story. This is the general reason for the whole tale. The character goes through the adventure to learn a life lesson. This is the glue that holds the whole story together. Why does the character want to save her stale marriage? Maybe she tells herself she doesn’t want to lose the comfort of routine and join the ranks of single mothers. But maybe deep down inside she really loves her husband and wants his attention back on her.

So how does the story end? Your character will learn the lesson and either live happily ever after or be sadder but wiser.

And don’t forget the twist. In order to twist the end, you have to know a secret about your character and keep that secret until the very end. Our lady character above loves her husband and misses his attention. So her imagination goes on a rant and builds suspicion, convincing her his attentions are on another woman. He’s distracted, works long hours, smells like cigarettes when he gets home and goes directly to sleep. What she doesn’t know, and my readers don’t know (until the last page) is that her husband has developed superhero powers and spends his evenings fighting crime with a sidekick. Her marriage is saved, their love is renewed and the reader gets a fun little surprise as a reward for sticking with the character through her whole adventure.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.