Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Important Lessons from Masterpiece Theater

Despite the title, I'm actually blogging about writing today, and what I've learned from the Masterpiece Theater production of The Woman in White.

I took out The Woman in White from the library a few weeks ago to watch. I had seen the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical in London and I was anxious to see a version that didn't have crap songs. Russell Baker, who introduced the movie, mentioned that Wilkie Collins, the author, had been a great friend of Charles Dickens and had written several of his novels for publication in one of Charles Dicken's magazines.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, back then, most of Dickens' novels as well as most novels were serialized in magazines, meaning they came out in monthly installments. There's a great story about readers waiting at the docks in New York for the latest installment of The Old Curiousity Shop, wanting to know if Little Nell lived.

Since the stories were serialized, the authors had to come up with bang-up endings for their installments to keep the readers clamoring to read more, to make the wait for the next month's installment a highly anticipated event. Think of JK Rowling. She understands perfectly the idea of cliffhangers. Even though she wraps up each installment of the Harry Potter novels, she still leaves enough dangling loose ends to make you long for the next book, impatiently waiting for the two to three years she's taken in between books.

It got me thinking about the manuscript I'm currently revising. Do all my chapters leaving you wanting to find out what happens next to my main character? Do I have enough highs and lows? Are you with her on her journey? Frankly at the moment, I think I lose the reader in the middle of the book. I have a very flat chapter that I don't know what to do with. It's that sagging middle all over again.

So, I'm trying to take a leaf out Mr. Dickens and Mr. Collins book, to make sure that my book is a rollercoaster ride.

1 comment:

Megan Frampton said...

Yup, I do that too. No-one wants to read 'just one more chapter' when your heroine's just turned out the light and gone to sleep.