November 9th, 2012

no tea

Suspense

I finished the big round of revisions/rewrites last night. Today's task will be re-reading the second half of the book to send to Mom (since I kind of left her hanging). Saturday during the day I'll be busy, with a choir workshop in the morning and a meeting/gathering in the afternoon, but that night I think I'll start the major proofreading by reading out loud to myself. Then I should be able to get it to my agent on Monday, so I'm on target for the deadline.

And then I will promptly collapse. Actually, I'll need to do some shopping, do some house cleaning and generally get my life back in order, maybe even repaint the bathroom after that sheetrock repair from this summer. I have research to do for the next project, and I'll probably soon have revision notes on another project, but none of that will be urgent. It will feel good not to have this weight on my shoulders. I really love the ending of this book and I think the final result will be one of my favorite things I've written. It was just a challenge to write, and not entirely due to anything in the book itself. The bronchitis came at a bad time and brought me to a screeching halt that it was difficult to recover from.

Now I just need to come up with a title.

But I will allow myself a fun Friday freaky TV night. Both Grimm and Haven are getting really intense, and Haven has done a really interesting cliffhanger in which the ultimate outcome isn't in much doubt, but we can already see that getting there will be very difficult. And both of these have reminded me of one weakness in first-person narration: You don't get to build suspense in quite the same way.

There's a quote attributed to Alfred Hitchcock about the difference between suspense and surprise. If you show a group of people sitting at a picnic table and a bomb planted under the table goes off, that's surprise. If you show the audience the bomb under the table, but the people sitting at the table don't know about it, that's suspense, as the audience knows more than the characters and waits for that bomb to go off while urging the characters to get away from the table. All you can really pull off in first-person narration is surprise, since nothing can happen without the narrating character knowing about it. You can't do any of those "No! Don't trust him! We just saw what he's really up to!" moments because the audience doesn't get to see stuff that's going on behind the narrator's back.

To get suspense, you need multiple viewpoints so you can see what's going on elsewhere in the world that the hero doesn't yet know about. With first person narration, you can have a character who knows she's in possible danger and doesn't know what might happen to her, so there's tension, and you can use surprise. I love writing in first person and seem to write better that way, but there are times when it's limited. Like with the current situations on both Grimm and Haven, if I were writing those shows in narrative, I couldn't use first-person, even though both are built around a central main character. A lot of the time, things would work from only Audrey's perspective on Haven, since she's so central, but the current situation wouldn't work at all because the audience needs to know what happened when she wasn't there, and us knowing something major that she doesn't know has had me gnawing my fingernails all week long.

I guess I'll throw this in the hopper of my literary bucket list. The project I'm about to get revision notes on is in third person, and I did use that audience-superior thing a couple of times, where the character is about to go into a situation that we already know is bad even though she doesn't know it, but I don't know if I really milked it for suspense, to the point that readers will be screaming, "No! It's a trap!"

And now, off to buy more tea/take a short walk, then down to work so I can get this book over with and move on to the next thing I'm dying to write.