Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Where the Heck Have I Been??

I have a terrible habit of not keeping up with the news of any variety. I learned the hard way at a newspaper that most of what is called and desiminated as "news" is truly gossip. However, right now I feel a little like I've been kicked in the gut because I just found out that Anne McCaffrey is dead and has been dead for twelve whole days without me knowing it.

Losing Anne McCaffrey is like losing a favorite teacher who changed my life or that neat lady who lived down the road and talked to me like an adult even though I was just a silly kid. I have nearly everything she ever wrote--her books are some of the few that have survived every move-purge over the past twenty-five years. I cut my high school fantasy teeth on her Dragonriders series and she has long been one of my favorite go-to authors for a great read with characters I will like and a world I will be both interested in and find accessible.

Her books were always about so much more than a fantasy/sci-fi premise. They were always about people and relationships and the way connections are forged. That's not to say she didn't also make me want incredible psychic powers and my very own dragon because she did that too.

I guess I need to start watching the news or keeping up with the world better. But then again, if I do I'll only find out more stuff like this that I really just don't want to know anyway.

Thank you, Anne.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"That Ending Sucked!": On Payoff in Fiction

Let me be straightforward---I don't write "literature." Now, that's not to say that I don't try to write well and with literary value. But the primary motivator in "literature" is seldom entertainment. Literature seeks to ask questions and make us think. I hope it makes us better people for having read. And I hope my readers find some really good takeaway value in my stuff as well. But I am all about payoff.

I want people to finish the last page of my stuff and say, "Wow! My questions were answered, my hopes were fulfilled, my expectations were met, and I feel satisfied." Just like after Thanksgiving dinner. Payoff. I love that feeling. I love finishing a book and wanting to hug it to my chest to continue that deep sense of completion. Payoff.

Now, I've read books that were excellent and well-written but left me troubled and pensive in a bad way. Madame Bovary comes to mind. I just wanted to beat the hell out of so many people at the end of that stupid book.

TV shows are the same way. I know that it's got to be the hardest thing in the world to write a series finale. After all, this is TV. People want payoff. And when shows pull unexpected endings--St. Elsewhere and Newhart immediately come to mind 'cause I never watched The Sopranos---people discuss whether or not that unexpected ending gave them payoff.

Take, for instance, Lost. I am beside myself right now since I just finished the show last night. Was that crazy ending payoff? Did I seriously expect payoff? In what way did the show fail to pay me what I expected given the amount of time I invested in watching it? I am still thinking about that.

Because when we read/watch something, we are investing ourselves in it. The closure we get or don't get off of it is the pay we earn by reading. We know if Nicholas Sparks's name is on the cover, part of our payoff will involve major character death and many kleenexes. But what if you're not expecting that? I completely quit reading Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series many years ago because of her tendency to introduce characters I loved just to kill them off mercilessly later. That wasn't the pay I was after!

I have been so thrilled with the reviews The Blacksmith's Daughter has been getting. It has been called enjoyable and a fast, fun read. I am delighted! That's the exact payoff I wanted to deliver. I wanted to take the reader for a ride that they would find interesting and fun, with dashes of deadly peril and romance just to make it extra zippy.

After all, who finished watching Star Wars: A New Hope and wasn't thrilled to see the heroes prevail and Darth Vader spin off into space? Knowing he was out there to come back was part of that excellent payoff. There's nothing wrong with a happy ending.

Maybe I'm just not angsty enough. Maybe I like things tidy. Maybe I don't like to be reminded of my mortality every time I pick up a book or watch a show.

So for all of you out there who'd like to escape the grim realities of life for a little bit, I'm going to keep writing.

Because I believe we can all use a little payoff sometimes.

PS Lost Rant: WTF?!! They are where?? My sci fi/fantasy island expectations just went out the window and my mortality has been stripped bare. I went through eight kleenexes in reunions---OMG James and Juliet---and somehow I still feel robbed. Crap. WTF. End of Lost rant.