Character Reveal, Foreshadowing, and Toilet Paper

After you read the following excerpt from my soon to be released e-novel I will explain the intent, why the reveal and the foreshadowing, and tell about toilet paper and life. The time is 1927 and this paragraph ends a chapter near the end of the story

Driving back I felt a sense of freedom. I was free from my job, a job I liked I grant you, but you become accustomed to not working. Maybe I am lazy. But I sensed this story was coming to an end, that Bast would be found, arrested, and tried for multiple murders. That would free my mind, case closed, back to Hollywood, back to a new job, back to writing, back to normalcy. Chasing down a killer, being followed, being shot at, being lied to, are not things that are pleasurable. It may be entertaining to an audience watching a hero in a movie catch a killer; a hero with smarts like Sherlock Holmes, with brawn like any movie tough guy, and all the while wooing some dame with ultra-coolness, but reality is nerve racking, tense, mind numbing, the bullets real, the danger scary. I am not near as smart as Sherlock Holmes, not a movie tough guy, not even close. I learn by accident, I stumble through the carnival funhouse coming out the other side with unexpected answers. And I don’t woo any dame. I am married, happily so. Movies aren’t real. I know, I write them. Of course we writers like to twist things, turn the screw if we can, do a Henry James you know. If we are good, we are magicians, or maybe illusionist is a better word, making you look one way, then the reveal, the twist, the unexpected moment. I didn’t think there was one in real life. I said ‘didn’t’ with intent because that is past tense. There was a real twist coming, one that Henry James would not have seen. Maybe that Freud guy would have figured things out, but not a writer.

First, a word about character reveals. Normally you might see a character reveal a personality trait about himself through dialogue, action, or something descriptive, like a nervous person avoiding eye contact, tapping their foot, pacing around the room. Here Chet Koski is being reflective. He has been trying to solve multiple murders and because he is a writer, not a police detective or private eye, he is frustrated. Real life is not the movies and he is a movie guy. There is an implication that moviegoers don’t get it when they watch a movie. Maybe he is out of his element at times, another reason for frustration.

This character reveal segues into foreshadowing by Chet’s reflection on writers and why at the end of the story writers twist things; the surprise ending. It is the author (that would be me) warning you there is a surprise ending coming soon. By implying Freud may have figured things out evokes, I hope, a psychological complex ending. Naturally I used my fictional character to reveal the foreshadow. Writers are sneaky. However, the character reveal is solely from Chet.

P.S. There is also another foreshadowing in the third sentence: “But I sensed this story was coming to an end.” Once again I put thoughts into Chet’s head. I am so bad.

Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

 

WHY THINKING IS BAD FOR WRITERS

The following is reposted from a previous incarnation of my writing blog “The quill, the e-word, the looniness.”

Thinking is not good for writers. Thinking means analyzing what you are doing, dissecting your sentence, your paragraph, your page. Is everything you want to say there? Is it said the correct way? And are you following all the rules those creative books say you should do? Does doing this numb the mind? If you want to improve your writing, then stop thinking and just write. And here is why.

In his book “Zen in the Art of Writing” Ray Bradbury says,  “. . . the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style; instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping.”

I don’t know what Bradbury means by ‘deadfalling or ‘tiger-trapping’, but I understand what he is talking about.

Style can not be calculated. Style is how you write and that reflects who you are; a writers style comes out of his being. Don’t be who you are not. It is impossible for me to write a tragedy, a serious drama, a heart warming love story, or an inspiring story. The reason is that my sense of humor, good or bad, always finds its way into the story. I can’t help myself. That is why the titles of my first two e-novels begins with the word “‘Loonies.” It is part of my world view that there is something loony about humanity, with how we think, our actions, and so on. Whether we recognize it or not we are kind of funny in a weird way.

So I write without thinking. I write with what is coming out of my head, entering my characters mouths’ giving me the opportunity to blame them for their actions or inactions. Consider these two phrases; “He who hesitates is lost?” and “To thine own self be true?” They apply to writing. Don’t think, just let you mind flow and be who you are. I write what I write in the way I write because that is who I am. It will work for you as well. So go trap a tiger.

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Mystery of The Agony Column, Charlie Chan, and a free book

Earl Derr Biggers was known for his six  Charlie Chan mysteries and the movies made from them. But before he created the famous detective he wrote other mysteries. One of which “The Agony Column” is a mystery within a mystery. I bring this book up because it is worth examining for writers as well as readers. You may find the book a great read, or you can argue the novel is too cute, too clever for it’s own good. It is a public domain novel you can download to your reading app for nothing on Amazon. You can tap for the free book and judge for yourself.

It was written in 1916 and the story takes place in 1914 just before England enters World War I. Here is the set up. The title is derived from a column in a London newspaper. It is one where people can exchange messages with anonymity. An man is seated at a restaurant table when a lovely woman and her father enter, sit down and begin talking. The man, infatuated with the lovely young American learns she loves reading the Agony Column. So he places an ad that references where she had lunch. She answers saying she loves mystery and romance and if he can continue to keep her interested she will meet him.

We learn in his second letter that the man above his apartment has been murdered and over the course of his letters a great mystery with many twists and turns ensue as the young man is helping in the investigation, not something he expected to have happen and indeed he becomes a suspect as well, and for good reason. Is he innocent or will he confess in his last letter? Would it not be a great twist to have the narrator be the killer? In each letter he professes his admiration and love for her, but is unsure of his future because of the murder investigation. 

It is a clever structure to have the mystery told by the narrator through letters. Not something I have run across before. The mystery of what happened draws the reader in and because of the time 1914 with war about to break out in Europe it seems a likely spy is in the midst of the murder and one who may be with the British government. But  there is also good reason to believe someone else is the killer, including the letter writer.

But as with any great mystery there is a twist and that I can not share, but the twist is where the reader, and perhaps a writer might think it was a twist that should not have been made. I will understand if some don’t like the ending, I get it. But from a writers standpoint I see something else at work. The narrator is the writer, the woman is his audience, and Biggers is the author and we are his audience. Even in a wonderful mystery, Biggers is having fun, holding up a mirror to the construct and artifice of writing, poking and prodding his audience to the end when he says “Got Ya!”

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