July 29, 2014


File:SCC 101 time machine bubble.jpg

Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

SF Trope: Time Travel

Anton Naoumov shook his head. “You’re not going to get me into that thing. I signed aboard this ship to practice being a paramedic, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget.”

Piia Takala grinned, “You’re not going anywhere in space, Anton! It’s...”

“I know – it’s a time machine. But didn’t Einstein have some theory that space and time are related? Intimately.”

Piia blinked in surprise and managed to say, “I’m sure you got that wrong. You never had a physics class, did you?”

“I didn’t need the class. I’m not a total idiot, you know! Medical majors can dabble in other stuff, so I did. And I didn’t get it wrong,” he said, tapping his handheld computer. “It says right here that Einstein wrote about it and W. K. Clifford described the effect of gravitation on space and time. He figured out it was easily visualized as a ‘warp’ in the geometrical fabric of space and time, in a smooth and continuous way that changed smoothly from point-to-point along the fabric of space and time.”

Piia pursed her lips. She’d never get him into the thing to go back with her if she let him dig any deeper. She said, “Granted. Space and time are intimately connected. But this isn’t going to be scattering your atoms anywhere. The only things that will be scattered are the quanta that make up the atoms. Those are only going to be shifted a little...”

He held up his hand and said, “What do you want me to do this for anyway? What’s so all-fired important about me doing this?”

She sat down on the stool in front of the control board. The time-shift chamber wasn’t really a chamber at all – it was a platform made of ultradense matter that was so massive, it was making a tiny dimple in local space-time. Above, a bank of high energy lamps pointed downward to an EM lens that would focus them on the head of the subject with enough force to shove the person through the dimple and into another time. The time period was pinpointed by the tightness of the focus and the depth of the dimple. Piia’d done the calculations three times. She took a deep breath and finally said, “I want you to stop the Finnish Civil War of 1918.”

He scowled then said, “How am I supposed to do that?”

“You have to let the one man who can stop the whole mess die.”


“It has to look like a natural death, too. I figured all you paramedics know how to keep people alive when they’re on the brink of death, you probably know how to push them over, too.” She slipped the stun gun from her pocket, flicking it on to maximum strength and minimum dispersion.

“You want me to commit murder?”

“Don’t worry about it – if you’re successful none of this will ever happen.”


“I want you to let my great, great, great grandfather die,” she said as she stunned him.

Names: ♀Finland, Thailand ; ♂ Bulgaria, Iceland 

July 27, 2014

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Ruins, Knickknacks, & Aliens…Oh, My!

Humans are obsessed with the past.

Three million people visit the pyramids at Giza every year. Annually, somewhere between four and ten million people visit the Great Wall of China. Thus far, a million people have seen the World Trade Center Memorial each year since it opened in 2011. The Battle of Gettysburg reenactments draws thousands of viewers each year – in 2013, the 150th Anniversary reenactment drew an estimated 120,000 people.

Machu Piccu, Stonehenge, The Roman Baths, Hadrian’s Wall, Ellora Caves, Chichen Itza, Hieropolis? A million a year. Teotihuacan, The Acropolis, Pompeii? Two million a year. The Terracotta Army, The Forum, and the Coliseum? Three to seven million.

We love our history. We love our past. WE LOVE DRAMA! Think about what happened at each of those places! Think of the pain, the weeping, the joy, the victories!

Think of the movies. I cannot find a number that even hints at the number of historical films that have been made – and NOT just in the US! Russians make history films. So do the Chinese. Bollywood goes without saying. But the Israelis do, too. And the Brazilians.

Humans are stuck in the past, doomed to relive it so many times and in so many ways that eventually it becomes legendary, then mythical, then finally mystical. Anne McCaffrey wrote in 1968: “When is a legend, legend? Why is a myth, a myth? How old and disused must a fact be for it to be relegated to the category: Fairy tale? And why do certain facts remain incontrovertible, while others lose their validity to assume a shabby, unstable character?”

Will aliens have the same obsession as Humans? Will their obsession be greater? Less?

At Diversicon in 2013, the discussion was “Aliens + Alien Ruins + Human Past”, and while not moderating, Jack McDevitt’s work was the launching point of the session. ANCIENT SHORES, ETERNITY ROAD, the entire ACADEMY series, which deals with the origin of the mysterious Omega Clouds; and the Alex Benedict series, that deals with both Human and (possibly) alien antiquities are firmly based in this “future’s past”. In his third novel, THE ENGINES OF GOD, Humans find an ice statue that at least one intelligent alien left behind on Saturn’s moon, Iapetus. The assumption then is that they must think something like us because leaving a statue of yourself behind for posterity is a very “Human” thing to do – sort of an “ice sculpture selfie”.

Who’s to say this is a ridiculous assumption? Who’s to say what aliens will and will not think about? Others argue that “different ways of thinking” accounts for The Great Silence, ie: “Our Galaxy is so old that every corner of it should have been visited many, many times over by now. No theory to date has satisfactorily explained away this Great Silence, so it’s time to think outside the box.”
The fact is that we have no evidence for aliens. Expressed in his book, CONTACT, Carl Sagan’s argument that “If we are alone in the Universe, it sure seems like an awful waste of space.” (This is a paraphrase of Sagan quoting Thomas Carlyle: “A sad spectacle. If they be inhabited, what a scope for misery and folly. If they be not inhabited, what a waste of space.”), and is differently iterated in his narration of the original COSMOS TV show when he says, “...absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

So, the question is, do YOU think that aliens will have their own version of “Antique Road Show”? Why or why not? What other responses to the past might an alien have?

Me? I think aliens will be alien and probably incomprehensible – and have attitudes that won’t support Carl Sagan or any other preacher on Earth. Except maybe having an idea of God. I’m pretty sure that will be a part of any aliens we ever meet.

July 25, 2014

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 57: Paolo Enroute

On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters , Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters  and I’m sorry, but a number of them got deleted from the blog – go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (40,000 words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

He passed his hand over the surface of the satellite – if it was a satellite. It wasn’t exactly an eclectic collection of slapped together components the Councils sometimes blew out of orbit and claimed were signs of Cartel activity on Mars. No other entity could raise more hackles than the Cartel. Even the UFIH’s crusade faded into the background when the boogeyman of the Cartel came up in conversation. Wild-eyed terror to the contrary, it didn’t look like the images he’d seen of their technology; fifty years behind outer Solar System technology as it was.

The more he studied it, the more...alien it looked. Subtle things about it he couldn’t attribute to simple cheapness. He pursed his lips and tried to pick it up – and nearly threw his back out. It hadn’t seemed that heavy when it was under the ‘bug.

Dropping to his knees, he slapped the underside of his wrist, activating the medmind of the space suit. Simple treatment for minor wounds or pains, it popped him a pain reliever which he chewed. Targeted for muscle pain, it took effect shortly and he remained kneeling, studying the satellite. On closer examination, he could see pitting and long scratches on the surface. Prepared this time for higher mass than the object looked like it possessed, he poked it. He felt a faint tingling through his gloves.

It rolled easily.

Pursing his lips, he rolled it to his knees and bracing himself, reached down to pick it up. Fingers tingling oddly, he was so startled, he nearly threw it over his shoulder before managing to control the toss. He put it back down. It weighed less than a fat cat – under Lunar gravity. He placed both hands on it this time. The tingling effect started immediately on his hands then move slowly up his arms, stopping at his elbows. He removed on hand – the sensation stopped immediately – and touched the side of his helmet in a pattern. A moment later, what he saw changed as the faceplate cycled through sensitivities to different EM wavelengths. There was nothing odd in the IR part of the spectrum, but flickered when he looked at it with a translated microwave image. Ripples passed over its surface, almost as if it was tweaking itself. Nothing like the typical images the faceplate delivered from Human devices. He looked up at the marsbug for a comparison.

All he saw there was a nimbus around the comm dish. Normal, because he wasn’t sending or receiving any signals. He waited a moment as the faceplate cycled through to the radio spectrum. At first there was nothing, then a flare at the “public” frequencies anyone on Mars could use – his was 102.54 MHz. There was nothing on that frequency, but it flared briefly whenever he “saw” frequencies active in the area. He tapped the repeat cycle, looked down to examine the satellite and was disappointed to see no activity after the brief microwave pulses.

The scan bumped back up to visual light then set of to look at higher frequencies. UV was sharply wild – daytime on Mars with its faint atmosphere, and despite the long-established Terraforming Project’s efforts – still resulted in high levels of UV on the surface. There were flickers of higher frequencies, but when the scan finished, the satellite still remained as uninteresting as before.

He ran through magnetic scans and while there was curious blip over the surface at 9 Tesla, the level typically used for MRIs in hospitals, but that was all. There wasn’t anything else he could do, though possibly...He tried a sonar pulse and fell backward, stunned, blind, and deaf.

July 22, 2014


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc.) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

H Trope: Ghosts

Current Event: “To be a ghost in space, I expect you would have to die in space. There is a rumor that just before the Americans landed on the moon, the Soviets had a manned mission crash on the dark side. The cosmonauts died, and no one collected them or their rocket...”

Uiloq Chokim pursed her lips then said, “You know the advertising slogan for the old pre-D movie about some space mining ship that picks up an alien infestation?”

Lachlan Maposa squatted as much as he could in the surface suit to gather up the aluminized shroud. Flotsam and jetsam from the thirty-something annual Jules Verne Medallion Races dribbled down from the “race course” between the International Space Station Museum & Bed & Breakfast and the luxury orbital resort, Kubrick. He grunted as he stood back up and said, “Of course, ‘In space, no one can hear you freak out’.” He moved off in pursuit of another  piece of shroud, following a silvery fiber wending its way across the surface.

“No, stupid! It goes ‘In space, no one can hear you scream’. It was for the movie ALIEN. Late last century it was all the rage. Grandpa talks about it all the time.” She looked up to see him disappear around a lunar stone. “Are you listening to me?”
There was a long pause. She frowned. Then Lachlan said, “Good. Scream. Grandpa.”
She sighed. She was definitely thinking about breaking up with him. He wasn’t the worst boyfriend she’d ever had, but he sure wasn’t the brightest bulb in the Dome. Besides, she’d started to think that she was never going to make her fortune up here. Mineral rights were tied up by two dozen conglomerates and a handful of nations – the Moon looked like Antarctica had in Early Twen – so there was no way to get a job if you didn’t work for them. Service jobs were plentiful – clerks, programmers, stockers, teachers, and suitjockeys – but you needed licenses for that, too. It was the license that cost as much as a year’s apartment rent. She heard a gag on her headphones and said, “Lachlan?”

“What? Quit bugging me! I’ve got a good lead on a big strike, but I think I see another light over the horizon. It’s reflecting off the Dome Base.” He was panting. She should make them exercise more often. Especially since she was semi-planning to head back to Earth sometime soon. He suddenly spoke up, “Besides, it was a stupid movie. I zipped it once,” she heard the swish of the snoopy cap against the helmet rim. He continued, “Aliens! There aren’t any aliens in the universe, let alone on a backwater like the Moon.”

 “How can you know something like that?” she asked, irritated despite the fact that she agreed with him. “No one can know that!”

“Just like I’m supposed to believe in Lunar ghosts?”

Stung by the mocking tone of his voice, she snapped, “Two cosmonauts died in 1968 – almost a year before Aldrin and Armstrong. Their spirits inhabit the Moon! It’s a well-known fact!” One more nasty word from him, and she would break up with him here and now!

She opened her mouth to tell him just that when he shouted, “What...”

Names: ♀ Greenland, Kazakhstan ; ♂ Tasmania, Botswana

July 20, 2014

WRITING ADVICE: How Many Characters Does It Take To Make A Short Story Sing? Guy Stewart #4

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote to the left will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

There’s lots of advice on this subject, offered by the famous, the infamous, the unknown, and the anonymous:

“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.” ― Neil Gaiman

“Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.” – Kurt Vonnegut

“...I'm a strong believer in telling stories through a limited but very tight third person point of view.” – George RR Martin

“...no hard and fast rules, but short stories can’t hold too many characters...If characters aren’t absolutely necessary, get rid of them…” – James Plath

“So take a look at your cast of characters and evaluate the purpose of each person in your story. How many of these characters are going play a part in the climax?... some characters serve no useful purpose and should be deleted altogether for the good of the book...the more streamlined your cast, the tighter and more powerful your story is likely to be.” – K.M. Weiland

“In short stories...the fewer the characters, the better...Most short stories thrive on 2 – 4 characters.” – A.J. Humpage

“...a short story doesn’t contain many characters. There is no need, or room, for large Dickensian ensembles. Two or three are usually more than sufficient...use enough characters to properly tell your story—not a single character more or a single character less.” – Scribendi

“Usually a short story focuses on one incident; has a single plot, a single setting, and a small number of characters; and covers a short period of time.” – Wikipedia

Good advice, certainly, but how have I incorporated it into my own writing?

Surveying my pro or semi-pro published science fiction, I find the following:

In stories of less than 2000 words, I find that three of them had two characters, the others each had one main character.

In stories with more than 2000 words, I find that ten of them had two characters, and three of them had two characters with either a significant minor character or changing minor characters.

Consensus appears to be that short stories (as defined by SFWA, a story of between 1000 and 7499 words) should have one, two, or three characters. I would add that only one of those characters should be fully developed; a second might be partially developed. Anything past that should be either a walk-on part or referred to as “the Captain” or “the other alien”.

What do you think?

PS: If you are a writer, you have to watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVo2ZRUWSdY

July 16, 2014



July 13, 2014

A Slice of PIE: “If you want to write, write; otherwise shut up!”


At the speculative fiction convention I attended, a lot of people say a lot of things, some of which I attributed…some of which I did not.

I have no idea who said it.

On the other hand, if you Google the phrase, “Shut up and write”, over 55 million results appear. So the saying isn’t unique. It’s not even original. Perhaps the phrase has entered the realm of the dreaded cliché. I’m not sure.

I’m also not sure that this is good advice.

As one of the slush pile-reading-crew for the online magazine STUPEFYING STORIES, I take up position between the executive editor and the mountain of unsolicited manuscripts coming his way. This mountain is living proof that lots of people have followed the advice above. It’s just that out of the 250 manuscripts I’ve screened and ranked since starting to help, I’ve given out roughly twenty scores high enough to get more than a cursory read from the exec. If I ran a few paragraphs past you, you’d see how literally some people take the advice above, without a thought or care in the world.

That’s the problem. It seems to me that lots of people want to write, so they write. They just don’t think.

They don’t think about their idea. Worse still, they don’t google the idea to see if someone’s done it before. Let’s say I have this great idea for a story where it turns out that Adam and Eve were actually aliens or genetically engineered by aliens (the second idea is experiencing a renaissance at this time a la David Brin’s UPLIFT books). I want to write it, therefore, following the aphorism above to the letter; I do and I send it out to the wide world, confident that I’ll be taking the spec fic world by storm. If I had only paused to check however, I’d have found that 1.1 million websites mention this idea or expound on it. Unless the writer is incredibly skilled (or David Brin, himself), the story will not see the light of day – at least not on a site or in a magazine that has an editor.

Frustrated, the writer works their way down the list of magazines, submitting right and left, then without selling it, finally self-publishes on Amazon.com or with Smashwords or whatever. Maybe their story will take the spec fic world by storm. Odds are against it, however.

I propose to add a corollary to the aphorism. In mathematics, a corollary is “is a statement that follows readily from a previous statement...[and]if [it] can readily be deduced from A or is self-evident…The importance of the corollary is...secondary to that of the initial theorem…Sometimes a corollary has a proof that explains the derivation; sometimes the derivation is considered self-evident.”

The aphorism with my corollary then: “If you want to write, write; otherwise shut up. Corollary 1: Before you write, think.”

I believe that I would not have been subjected to many of the stories that came my way if the writer had paused to think about what they were writing. Once they started to think, they might have googled the idea to see if it had been done half a million times. While googling it, they may have gone on a tangent and had their idea intersect an entirely unrelated thought.

THAT may have produced a truly new idea they could use in a story that really would have taken the spec fic world by storm!

I’ll take a vote on appending the corollary. Any “nays”?

July 11, 2014

Missed Thursday Post

I am staying at Mom and Dad's place as Mom is getting a hip replacement.
They have dial up.
Need I say more?
Back to regular posts on Saturday/Sunday!

July 9, 2014


Each Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

Fantasy Trope: Omniscient evil

Current Event: Evil Overlord List (http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html)

Chiyun Musyoka stood, staring at the castle in the distance.

Virgilijus Wirajuda looked at Chiy and said, “Really? How are we supposed to get in there?”

Chiy handed Virgi her tablet computer and tapped it. PETER’S EVIL OVERLORD LIST glowed to light again. He pressed his lips tightly together. They’d only gotten this far into the castle-owner’s lands by pretending to be brother and sister, though they’d been boyfriend and girlfriend since they were twelve. They were supposed to be visiting their elderly grandmother and had gotten lost in the woods. Virgi didn’t think they’d fooled Dread Master Buttercup, nor had he been able to figure out why the Dread had chosen such an absurd name. It made him want to laugh. The conspiracy group thought it meant he was cracked in the head. Virgi wasn’t so sure. The Dread seemed to be able to sense every move they made and counter it. The fact that the two of them had made it this far made him nervous. “Why are we here.”

“To destroy the Dread,” Chiy began.

“I know that part!” Virgi whispered. “Why are we trying to destroy him?”

Chiy smacked him on the side of the head. “Because he took the throne from the Royal family, stupid!”

“You can say that again,” Virgi muttered.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she shouted over the rumbling thunder. Lightning limned the Dread’s castle.

In the ringing silence, he said softly, “Armed robbery on the highways is down 48%; birth rates are up not that the Dread has started those local Midwife and Practical Sorcery Clinics and classes; and I heard that the farms using the Dread’s hybrid wheat and rye grass are headed for bumper crops. The land planted with sugarcane after the Dread ordered the destruction of the tobacco plantations is looking at nothing short of an agricultural revolution.

She slapped the back of his head, saying, “Dread kidnapped our parents and he’s left nothing but salt earth behind us as we got closer and closer to his malevolent castle!”

There was a flash of lightning as Chiy and Virgil’s bodies...

Image: http://unbconnect.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/lightening.jpg

July 6, 2014

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: Four Tips To Drive Your Readers Wild…ly Into Your Story

I am currently reading a science fiction novel written by a multi-genre, multi-award-winning author. This author also writes fantasy, romance, media-tie-ins, collaborations, and mainstream novels.

This author also writes mysteries.

Her work is the absolute best there is (according to Locus Magazine: 2 Hugos, 1 World Fantasy Award, 2 Locus Awards, 1 Endeavour, 1 UPC, 1 Sidewise, Campbell New Writer Award, 1 AnLab Poll, 6 Asimov's Reader Polls, 2 HOMers, 1 Science Fiction Age Poll) – it is also a spectacular example of four tips or ideas I heard at DiversiCon 21, a convention that celebrates speculative fiction of all kinds.

The first idea was that all critical action has to happen on stage. I occasionally read mysteries and it’s always been clear to me that the clues that would allow the solution, are clearly laid out even though they may be veiled or easily misread. Mystery readers are trained from a young age to expect this. In a writing class I teach, we talk about writing fiction. I point out that most of the genre fiction sold is romance. But second on the list are mysteries. In magazines written for kids, you can almost guarantee that there will be a mystery in every issue – CRICKET, HIGHLIGHTS, HOPSCOTCH, BOY’S QUEST – all of them use mysteries to not only entertain, but to teach. Certain mysteries have a clear set-up and dénouement. Every ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN mystery has the same structure. It’s almost boring, yet the books sell today, and were first published half a century ago! Donald J. Sobol’s last book was published in 2012. 50 million books have been sold – and there are still 7.5 million in print. My first sale to CRICKET was called, “Mystery On Space Station Courage”.

No matter how many times I read these or other mysteries, the author has to consider this idea, even if they break it on purpose. (In that case, the story is called “literarary” and it gets shelved somewhere else.) Everything of importance needs to happen “on stage”. Not only in mysteries, but in any genre fiction, and (for the most part), in literary fiction as well. Agree? Disagree? Why?

The second idea seems fundamental to all writing as well: make the reader wait. The entire world waited with bated breath and cash in hand to find out if Harry Potter ultimately defeated Voldemort. JK Rowling forced every single one of us to wait patiently as she built up the story line. The fact that the Harry Potter books were, at heart, mystery novels should make this advice self-explanatory. Outside of genre certainly, there are literary novels and experimental novels where the ending is revealed immediately. First person novels in which the main character “tells” the story are an exception to this rule, the main reason being that as soon as they say something like, “I only barely survived the sinking of the Titanic…”, you know the ending. They survived. Also, stories that begin with the hackneyed “Had I but known...” are a deliberate violation of this idea – though people still do it. Do you mind these kinds of books?

Third idea, the evidence should always be there is a reflection of both of the ideas above and involves respecting your reader. For example, most websites that offer writing advice will tell you not to end your story with, “and I woke up from the dream”. Information that you need to create an image in your mind as you read is withheld from the first page of the story and not revealed until the last – and you have no hint whatever that what is happening didn’t happen at all. Your mental image of what’s happening does NOT include the main character snoring in his or her sleep-messed bed. While I read fiction as an “escape” from the humdrum of daily life, I also expect that it will reflect daily life. I especially don’t like to be tricked when I read. Real life has enough surprises without adding a writer who deliberately keeps stuff from me. OTOH, some people like to be tricked. You?

Last of all, give the reader a PAYOFF at the end. It doesn’t have to be spectacular, but it has to be satisfying. HIDDEN IN SIGHT is a novel by Julie Czerneda that I finished a few days ago. The last book in a trilogy, it concluded by tying together several events from the previous books as well as concluding the novel itself. It also reconciled characters to each other and allowed for the fulfillment of a secondary character’s long-held dream. For me it was perfect. Another example, this time from a scriptwriter of the popular TV series, “Bones” called “The Proof In The Pudding”, involves the Jeffersonian team and an assignment to find the cause of death of – but not the identity of – a set of bones. When it becomes clear that they are the remains of John F. Kennedy and there appears to be evidence that he was murdered by not one but two killers and that Booth is facing a crisis of faith in the US government, Brennan misleads everyone but Cam into believing that the remains are not JFK’s. It’s not what I expected, but the payoff was extremely satisfying for me because it preserved a relationship as well as left the issue open ended. What kind of payoff do you expect in a story?

Because these ideas match my expectations as a READER, I use them as a writer. How about you?