Sunday, September 23, 2012

How many moments?

I'm back from fishing. That's the first fish I caught on the trip, a pike that doesn't give a shit how big the lure is, it's going to hit anything that moves.

The joy of fishing, the goal, is to catch a fish. I know, I know, deep and profound. Well, the same "no shit" theory applies to writing. Most of the writer's time is spent in preparation. In fishing, you get your gear ready, you buy the most alluring lures you can find, you string with whatever pound test you think is appropriate for the conditions, you lube the reel, you watch the fish detector, you read the blogs and message boards about the fishing destination, and you have to trust that the things you're doing are going to bring the fish in.

In writing, you set the circumstances, you arrange the lines, you carefully choose the setting, you take the reader by the nose and force him to think of the character the same way you do, except you allow that some readers will draw different conclusions than you would. And what you're looking for is the reaction. The reaction equals the landed fish. You're looking to make the reader laugh. Make the reader weep. Make the reader fear what's about to come. You want him to come swimming up to the bait, unsuspecting, as though life is normal. As though the minnow with the hook through it's head is the same as the last minnow the reader swallowed. You feed him four or five pleasant minnows or worms, and then strike. The strike moment is the one the reader will remember.

Let's take The Hobbit. That should be popular soon again, since the movie's coming out. Great book. Read it more than once. Gandalf knocks on the door, dwarfs show up, Bilbo heads off into the woods sans kerchief, trolls, etc..., Golum, ring, eagles, goblins, strange folks, Misty mountain, dragon, war. Not plot points, but specific scenes, hover at the edge of the mind, flashes, pictures that represent whole sections of books, carefully compartmentalized by the brain into a single figure that carries a whole set of emotions. No need to recall the specifics, the general picture holds all the detail buried in its genes.

Those moments that the reader will remember your book by, what do they look like? Are they cool? Funny? Sexy? Are the colors the way you want them? Are there smells you want to reader to enjoy? Is there a lonely dripping faucet in the background? Is the grieving widow burying her nails into her own scalp? Can the reader feel the pain? You're fishing here. It has to be enticing.