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Grand Finales: Tips for Writing Great Endings of Novels

Today’s post is reprinted by permission from editor Alan Rinzler. Alan worked for years at the top publishing houses with some of the most successful authors (as you’ll see below). I feel his terrific post on book endings ties in wonderfully with our look at scene structure. Be sure to check out Alan’s website to glean more from this very insightful and knowledgeable editor!

Writing a great ending for your book is just as important as a dynamite opening that rivets our attention and compels us to keep turning those pages.

A well-written book requires some kind of symphonic climax that resonates in our heads and hearts like the famous 40-second E-major chord at the end of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. Our response may be filled with joy, hope, and happiness, or it may lead us to feel uncomfortable, to frown, scratch our heads, and worry about the unknown mysteries of life.

I’ve worked with many fiction and narrative nonfiction authors to achieve such closure for plot-driven thrillers, mysteries, romances, literary novels, memoirs, and young adult books, but also histories, biographies, travel books, and other stories. Continue Reading…

The Key to Creating a Wholly Believable Character

Last week I talked about the natural action-reaction cycle that’s such an important issue in fiction writing. So many manuscripts I critique are missing key reactions from characters. This oversight—and I believe that’s what usually causes this problem—is similar to scenes lacking appropriate description of setting or characters.

Writers see their scenes in their heads, and often while attempting to get all the many details down and locked in, they fail to pay attention to these nuances and trimmings. Yes, it’s often easier to come back later and fill those in—bring in sensory elements and the touches of description that help bring a scene to life.

And writers can certainly add in those needed reactions as well. So long as they can spot what’s missing.

While a lack of description details can be easy to spot and subsequently provide, if a writer doesn’t really get the natural flow of action-reaction, he won’t know it’s missing. Or know how to insert it so it’s believable. Continue Reading…

The Cycle of Action-Reaction in Novel Scenes

You’re in the middle of reading a book. Suddenly you hear a loud crash outside. It sounds as if a tree just fell on your garage. You run outside and into your driveway. Your mouth drops open.

A spaceship—or what appears to be one—has nosedived into your garage and your brand-new BMW is crushed.

You . . .

  1. Stomp your feet and fume. Now you’re going to have to call a tow truck and haul your baby to a repair shop. And what’s the likelihood you’ll get your $1,000 deductible back? I mean, really, who exactly can you file a claim against? you wonder as you stare at the clearly alien vehicle that is smoldering on your roof.
  2. Totally freak out in fear. Seriously—aliens have invaded Earth, and they just happened to have crashed your house. Panic strikes as you worry about your three kitties. Where are they, and can you round them up before Martians make a quick lunch of them? They eat cats, right? You go screaming into the house.
  3. You stand in awe. How cool is this? Good thing you have your smartphone in your pocket. Think how much money you’ll make selling the video of the first aliens on Earth. You can hardly control your wiggling and squealing as you wait for some door to open on the spacecraft.

Continue Reading…

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