Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Consequences

Okay, before you go all "Whatev." and roll your eyes, it's different. This isn't the kind of consequences we talked about a while ago. More like a grand-scheme-of-things type of discussion. When sitting down to write a novel, there is an essential question all writers must ask. I think this question is often skipped over. Often unanswered. Often left out--both in the novel and the query letter.

It's the consequence.

And here's the question: What does the MC have to lose if they can't overcome Conflict A, B, or C?

Can you answer this question for your WiP? Can your readers? Is it addressed in your query letter? It should be.

Because everyone wants to pick up a book, read the back, and go, "Oooh, I have to read this RIGHT. NOW. to find out if/how super-awesome MC can overcome that nasty super-bad."

And that's why I'm floundering a little bit in my NaNo novel. I'm not exactly sure what my MC has to lose if he can't overcome the conflict. Maybe because I don't really have the conflict nailed down either...

But that's another post for another day. *wink*

Thoughts on the overarching consequence of your novel? What does your MC have to lose? Internally or externally?

23 comments:

Solvang Sherrie said...

I have this in my novel, but now that you mention it, I don't think it stands out enough in my query. Maybe that's the problem! Thank you :)

Aubrie said...

This is a great post! I read in Donald Maass's "Writing the Breakout Novel" that the protag must have everything he/she values taken away from him/her. You have to make them suffer. That makes for the best conflict.

So I try to make my characters suffer the consequences and then triumph!

Nisa said...

That is a very good question! So after posting my first line on rally and reading some of the others that posted, (this is related I promise!) I wondered why some had more allure than others and I think it goes back to this. Does the first line/paragraph raise questions that have to be answered? That's what draws me in and makes me want to read more. Conflicts raise those same burning questions. It stands to reason that we as authors need to know what those questions are and how to monopolize on them both in the story and in the query. I've written this question down to remind me as I write. Thank you!

Eric said...

This a great question, and I agree it's very necessary. In my case, my MC Trevor stands to lose everything (most importantly his life). The conflict he has to overcome is both literal and figurative, both external and internal. So yes, I have thought these things out and continue to do so as I write the story out. Nice post, Elana.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Excuse me while I scream--YOU are floudering at 9K words in three days?????
Okay. Done. Now. I agree that too often that huge question about consequence is not addressed. And there really is no story without it.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

i'm with tricia....congrats on the 9K so far!

jeannie
The Character Therapist

Amanda said...

Great question! I'm going to put this on a post it and stick it to my screen when I am writing to keep me on track.

WindyA said...

ooooh. Another good question. It's like making sure you can answer the "So what's your [novel's] problem?" question, right?

And the answers to these questions are never black and white, and you can't just say, well, yes, they are going to lose this and this and that and that.

If you figure out the formula for finding these answers, let me know, wouldja?

Scott said...

Sorry, couldn't help myself, but my eyes rolled. Hey, it happens.

First - Nano is not the normal writing process. NaNo is a writing free-for-all where people attempt to complete a rough draft of a novel in 30 days and hit 50,000 words. So, write the story, forget all the questions you really should ask yourself . . . because you darn well know you're going to be revising the project like crazy for the next year or so. At least you should be revising like crazy for the next year or so. : )

Second - what is the loss, and what is the importance of the loss to the character?

If it's an internal struggle, will the loss the create greater consequences somewhere down the road for the character . . . well after 'the end'. If it's something external - home, job, wife, kids - well, that's easier to write about.

Can an internal struggle be maintained? Can the reader sympathize? Would a reader want to sympathize?

I guess . . .well, I'm getting inspired for my own blog, so I'm stopping here.

Great post.

S

p.s. just keep writing. sometimes, the answers to your question aren't readily available at the start of the novel.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Without conflict a novel just doesn't move along. But I agree with Scott- just keep writing and conflict will arise. I think I was about 100 pages into my book when the major conflict finally coagulated in my mind.

Tamika: said...

The thing I have to remember is to include this technique in every scene.

So of my scenes don't really under the conflict well.

Great post.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post. I've been giving hints of the consequences in my nano, but no straight-out mentions. Hmm, maybe it's time... Thanks :)

Melanie Avila said...

I love this: "...can overcome that nasty super-bad."

The thing my MCs are fighting to get back is the tranquility of their lives before the big bad thing happens in the first chapter. It seems so blah when I say it that way, but that's what it comes down to.

Danyelle said...

Elana, you are made of win. :)

Natalie Murphy said...

Great question!

L.T. Elliot said...

I just had a new novel come to life recently as I'm trying to figure this out as well. Best of luck with yours!

Katie Ganshert said...

I try to establish the overarching consequences before I start writing. Great reminder!

Corey Schwartz said...

Hmm... wonder if I can apply this to some of my PB manuscripts?

Paul Greci said...

Great question. I have one WIP that I'm trying to nail down,too. Is the consequence big enough or it is just like, big deal?

Anna Flaa said...

How well this articulates my own problem. *sigh*

This whole flying by the seat of my pants thing might be taking its toll...

T. Anne said...

My NaNo MC is a big fat liar. That being said she's got a lot of problems to hurdle and some redeeming to do.

Carolyn V. said...

I just don't know!!!

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