"Planning to write is not writing. Outlining--researching--talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing."
(E. L. Doctorow)
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Once upon a time, I was writing stories. I was trying to make them memorable. Things were exploding. People were dying. Knives were used. Guns were fired. Laser thingies were disintegrating aliens. Blood was splashed against stainless steel walls. Tears were never far.
But alas, no matter how many amazing tools and situations I was using – nothing felt truly dramatic. Every explosion, every knife planted in poor schmucks’ backs, every laser thingies looked like armless plastic artifacts.
And then… Bingo! I discovered the power of PLANTING AND PAYING OFF.
From that day on, using a knife, squashing an alien, or blowing a head felt great!
The concept is easily understandable and magical to use: If you’re going to use any dramatically charged tool or skill (a knife, an ability to throw things, a gun, a bomb, Aunt Liza apple pie), you need to plant it casually earlier in your story.
In other words...
If you’re going to kill the landlady with an axe, better present this axe way before splitting up the landlady’s head with it.
If Cathy Ames is going to shoot Adam Trask in the shoulder, it will work as a dramatic jackpot if you already clearly established that Cathy was a monster and a time bomb ready to explode.
Easy, isn’t it?
Planting and paying off: use it. And killing stuff will never feel so fine.