[A guest post by Terry R Lacy.]
“You have to tell a story in your story.”
It’s amazing how often I say that to a writer and they jot it down, as if it’s news. I smile as if I’m happy to be imparting wisdom, but I’m thinking, “Really? You needed to be told that?” To me, there is nothing more blatantly obvious in the world. What’s the point of a story if it’s not to tell a story?
But that raises a question: What is a story?
A story is change. Always. It is about change in the protagonist. Always. It is the point where the protagonist’s life is always and forever to never be the same. It’s the point in Raiders where Indy says, “That all depends on how cooperative we’re all willing to be. All I want is the girl.” Indy starts out looking for the Ark of the Covenant—the entire movie is his quest for the Ark—but in the end, he threatens to blow up the Ark—all he wants is the girl. Indy has changed.
Your high school English teacher most likely called this the “climax.” That’s close, but not quite accurate. Climax implies a rise in the action, and it’s fine for pornography. The events change. Things change.
I tell my writing classes that there are secret languages. They have been around since “Shibboleth,” and they are used to tell one class of people from another. Musicians still use them. Bass players—at least the good ones I worked with—never call their instrument a guitar. It’s always their axe. A drummer never says “drum set.” It’s always their kit. If I’m playing in a club and someone tells me I have a nice drum set, I thank them. If they say I have a nice kit, I know I’m talking to another player. The conversation changes because I’m talking to one of my own.
Writers do it, too. If someone talks about the story’s climax, I know they are a reader. There’s nothing wrong with that. I love readers. If it wasn’t for readers, I would have to find a real job. Readers are my heroes. But I know from that one word, who I’m talking to.
Writers call it the Reversal. Because it’s not a change in the action—it’s a change in the protagonist. Always. It’s how we know who the story is about. Please note I didn’t say, “What the movie/story/novel is about.” Stories are never about things—they are always and forever about people, and to be specific, one person—the protagonist. It’s not Gatsby’s story—it’s Nick’s. It’s not Butch and Sundance’s story—It’s Butch’s. Nick and Butch are the ones who changed. The reversal is the reason for the story. If there is no reversal, there is no story.
Stories always have trouble. Only trouble is interesting. No one has ever, nor will they ever, publish a story about someone having a good day. Good days are boring. We don’t care. We want Marion in a basket being carried away by bad guys and Indy chasing them but turning the corner to find even more baskets, and he has no idea which one she’s in, so he has no choice but to tip them all over. When things get bad—make them worse. It’s not enough to have a bear come along and chase your hero up a tree—you have to make the bear shake the tree—you have to make the limb crack—Make your guy one of those animal rights activists who believes all life is precious, and it’s wrong to kill anything, and now it’s down to him or the bear. Does he stick to his beliefs and become lunch, or does he figure out a way to kill the bear? There’s your reversal.
Stories without a reversal are pointless. Goldilocks learned that trespassing is wrong, the Three Little Pigs learned the value of good construction, and in every other story out there, someone learns something, even if it about themselves. A story without a reversal is a car without an engine. It might look nice, but it ain’t going nowhere.
Watch for Terry’s upcoming book, Savannah 1.0: The Quest for Love
Dan Mitchell is lonely and neurotic. He buys Savannah, a companion-bot. She’s smart, sexy, and all plastic. She changes his life.
FROM DOROTHY GRANT: Shattered Under Midnight.
Raina escaped to Freeport with a tour booked under a stolen ID, and a plan to lose herself in the city. Instead, she found a city in revolt, and now both sides are after her to control the alien gifts engineered into her DNA.
Her only ally is an offworld investigator trying to get to the bottom of the explosive mix of on-planet and alien politics… but his secrets are even deadlier than her own.
From the back alleys of the souk to the depths of alien ruins, they’re now in a desperate fight to stop the revolution before everything is lost!
FROM D. LAWDOG: The LawDog Files.
LawDog had the honor of representing law and order in the Texas town of Bugscuffle as a Sheriff’s Deputy, where he became notorious for, among other things, the famous Case of the Pink Gorilla Suit. In THE LAWDOG FILES, he chronicles his official encounters with everything from naked bikers, combative eco-warriors, suicidal drunks, respectful methheads, prison tattoo artists, and creepy children to six-foot chickens and lethal chihuahuas.
THE LAWDOG FILES range from the bittersweet to the explosively hilarious, as LawDog relates his unforgettable experiences in a laconic, self-deprecating manner that is funny in its own right. The book is more than mere entertainment, it is an education in two English dialects, Police and Texas Country. And underlying the humor is an unmistakable sympathy for society’s less fortunate – and in most cases, significantly less intelligent – whose encounters with the law are an all-too-frequent affair.
FROM ROB HOBART: The Sword of Amatsu (Empire of the Sun and Moon Book 1)
For four centuries, the Empire of the Sun and Moon has been torn apart by war as its samurai Clans fight for the empty throne of the Emperors. The Gray Wolf Clan is one of only six Clans remaining, but faces a deadly threat from the more powerful and ruthless Jade Dragon Clan. Yet the greatest threat to the Empire is not the bloody ambitions of its samurai. The shadowy followers of the Cult of the Mask, worshippers of foreign demons, burrow through the Empire’s society like worms in rotten meat, growing in power year by year.
As battles rage and conspiracies fester, the fate of the Empire will turn on the actions of a handful of samurai. The young lord Ookami Akira, trained by monks to be a master of war but desperately ignorant of the Empire’s civilization, must learn to be the ruler of the Gray Wolf Clan or he and his people will perish. Kuroi Kaede, a naïve girl forced into an unwilling marriage to Akira, must master the courts if she is to survive. The lowly magistrate Kobayashi Mitsui is the only one in the Empire who recognizes the true scale of the threat from the Cult of the Mask. And the murderous wandering swordsman Kenji may hold the fate of all in his blood-stained hands…
FROM STEPHANIE OSBORN: Definition and Alignment (Division One Book 7) When another enhanced human, Mark Wright, unexpectedly shows up at the Agency, Alpha One discovers that they still aren’t done with Slug’s machinations and levels of planning: Wright is there for Omega, and the NEXT generation of assassins will be GENETICALLY programmed to kill Echo! Thus begins a bizarre, inverted manhunt as the telepathically-brainwashed Wright chases Alpha One across the planet, using the pre-programmed mental link that Omega can’t fully block, to follow her anywhere Echo can take her…