Good afternoon from drizzly, 11°C England! (No snow in sight.)
In my first post, I promised to mention some interesting tips from the world of screenwriting that could be used to improve novels. While there are many helpful principles used in screenwriting, for this post I'll focus on something that really caught my attention.
Note: My study of screenwriting came after completing my fourth novel (The Treacherous Trail). Thus, the points I'm going to share are ones you might not find in my writing up to this point.
Start at the End
Whether we find them in books or in films, in fiction or in fact, good stories are about change. The bad guy is caught, or the good guy dies, or the powerful tyrant is overthrown. William Bradford leaves his home to brave the dangers of a New World, Johanna-Ruth Dobschiner survives WWII and is converted, empires fall, or Scotland wins its independence. Sometimes change is subtler than that, but it needs to be there. Why?
1) Well-constructed change means suspense (because the reader doesn't know what will happen next).
2) Suspense means the reader is dying to find out what happens, and will continue until he gets the answer.
And that is exactly what you want.
One way to help yourself map the path of change in your story is to start at the end. How do you want the story to end? By definition, this is the final part of the tale, and the part the reader will (probably) reach last and remember. Instead of the hero only learning a lesson or feeling a certain way, can he do something to show the change more strongly? (e.g. The prodigal son didn't stay with the pigs; he took action, returning humbly to his father. This was powerful, outward proof of his learning and feeling---his inner change.)
Once you have some idea of your ending, you could think of ways to make the beginning as different as possible to facilitate the most change. If Percy Blakeney is revealed as a brilliant mastermind at the end, you could make him seem a thoughtless fool at the beginning. If Valjean becomes a righteous man, you could make his redemption seem impossible at the start. If the Titanic sinks . . . okay, well, maybe that's just a little too far-fetched. The Titanic could never sink! :)
With these ideas of the ending and the beginning in hand, you could write them down somewhere to remind yourself as you continue planning the route between those two points. They will probably change as you go along, but that's okay. They're there to help you and give a reference for your starting point and desired destination. Hope this helps!
Time to celebrate the Saviour's birth,
Goodwill to men, peace be on earth.
Wishing you every joy of the season
Because Christ came; yes, He is the reason.