“It was all coming out from somewhere, and I just had the job of writing it down. I was, however, determined that the central characters would have a happy ending, but it was quite difficult sometimes to get them out of trouble.”
- Naomi Mitchison (1897 – 1999) Scottish novelist
As I near the end of my NaNo novel (45,000 words and counting) my characters keep tripping up. Just today, I put a side note next to a passage asking the question – “Does Jo die?” – she is an important character and the love interest of the main character, Frank. It came seemingly out of nowhere – they were driving along, Jo fell asleep in the car, Frank pulled over to get sleep himself, and when he woke up with his face in her neck, she was cold. Where did that come from? It wasn’t in my rough sketch of an outline. I don’t know if I want to follow that path, so my novel my have an alternate ending.
It’s funny how the mind works, especially when in the time capsule that is NaNo. Am I trying to rush to an ending? Even though this complication would make the novel longer, perhaps my brain is just fizzling out and wants to kill somebody. It’s my brain’s way of saying “No More!” and crying Uncle.
In an excerpt from Michael Maxen's article, "How to Manufacture a Best Seller" published in the New York Times Magazine on March 1, 1998, he gives a formula for writing a bestselling novel. The last “rule” is to kill somebody. Maybe I’m on the right track?
Below are a few key rules from the article:
- The hero is an expert.
- The villain is an expert.
- You must watch all of the villainy over the shoulder of the villain.
- The hero has a team of experts in various fields behind him.
- Two or more on the team must fall in love.
- Two or more on the team must die.
- The villain must turn his attentions from his initial goal to the team.
- The villain and the hero must live to do battle again in the sequel.
- All deaths must proceed from the individual to the group: i.e., never say that the bomb exploded and 15,000 people were killed. Start with "Jamie and Suzy were walking in the park with their grandmother when the earth opened up."
- If you get bogged down, just kill somebody.