Recently, I attended my friend’s birthday party. There were people going to be there that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I got chatting to someone I hadn’t seen in over twelve years. She said to me, ‘Are you still writing?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’ve got three books out and I’ve submitted my fourth.’ She was surprised. She reminded me that I had given my early work to her to read all those years ago. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t remember it, or what I had given her. She said it was a short story, and at the end the wife lays her head on her husband’s chest and listens to his heart beating. She said she remembered that since she had read it and it really resonated with her. Now that she’s married with several kids, she does that – listens to her husband’s heartbeat.
I have no idea what book that was from; I have a vague idea, but I’ve written so much in twelve years it may be on my old computer that died a few years ago and I lost a few short stories. It got me thinking of the power of words. A scene I wrote was remembered twelve years later and really struck a chord with someone. It meant a lot. I started to think of all the books I had read and which ones I remembered. Which scenes were the most memorable for me? Stephen King’s The Shinning didn’t stick with me as much as the movie did, however his other book Gerald’s Game has remained me for nearly fifteen years due to the very end scene. I remember being scared out of my wits at night trying to finish it. Graphic novels like Essex County by Jeff Lamire have had an unexpected impact. Its powerful, heart-wrenching storyline has affected me in ways that no other comic book has.
When writing, I’m not looking for scenes to write that will be memorable, I’m looking to write a whole book that has a feeling of accomplishment, not only for me, but for the reader as well. What’s the use in reading a whole book if it didn’t entertain you for a few hours, or days? I’ve read far too many books where the writer was floundering for the first half of the book till the storyline kicked in and then it was wrapped up in a hundred pages. To me, that’s not good story writing. I don’t want to read about nothing until you’ve come up with the plot. Give it to me from the very start.
The book I’m writing at the moment, Elephant Stone, has scenes of dreams in it that won’t appear till book 3. The very opening sequence won’t be explained till book 2. Reading it, the reader won’t ask questions because I’ve tucked it away nicely so that it is forgotten until they read book 2 and then they’ll remember ‘Oh, that was the start of book one.’ I like hidden treasures like that; it makes the reader think that I’ve actually put thought and process into my plot development. Hopefully they will read it and say it’s a good book and the payout will be linking scenes together through the four books series.
The power of words comes from the reader relating to scenes, relating to characters and falling in love with people that don’t actually exist. The reader is with them, beside them and they feel attached enough to believe they know them. When writers abuse that power, the reader reacts in a way that would indicate that character was real, and in a way, they are.