Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Contrivance, Suspension of Disbelief and Dropping Hints

A Guest Post by Author Brad Preston

Blood Trail is, at heart, a novel of circumstantial revenge. Wrong place, wrong time. And haven't we all been there before? Hopefully not to the extent the novel's characters have to endure.

The plot involves three different storylines (and their extensional parts) and the inevitable convergence that lays in wait. How does one pull this off without the story appearing contrived? There is no blueprint but there are certain steps you can follow (or avoid). Contrivance is sometimes a necessity and if you can suspend the reader's disbelief as they turn the pages, then you have succeeded. You have to be able to manipulate the puppet's strings without showing your hands, without losing the reader to the “that is too convenient” card. If it seems too impossible, too unbelievable, then it probably is. Mind you, this is all in relation to the flow of your story, to the nature of the tale you're spinning.

If your book takes place in the realm of the impossible, then the more the merrier. If it's grounded in reality, tread carefully. It doesn't mean you can't throw a curve ball at the reader. If you see no other way around a given situation, if you can't write yourself out of a corner, then it's probably a necessity.

The best way to not lose the reader is drop subtle hints here and there along the way. Subconscious notes the reader can store away so when that twist comes from left field (because, as writer, we have no other alternative, no other way to get from scene A to scene B) then they accept the surprise, they go with it, the flow of your story continues. Not all novels require this, not all authors require this. I, as a fledgling writer, sometimes notice that contrived feel to some of my stories. Sometimes I do write myself into a box. But that's okay... if you can pull it off. Remember the shark tank in the movie Jaws? Could a scuba tank really blow up a 25 foot Great White shark? Of course not, but Spielberg claimed that if he could hold the audience's attention for two hours, then they would believe anything in the end no matter how unrealistic or unbelievable it was. And he “hinted” up to it, too. Hooper states to Brody that the tanks are filled with compressed gas and if you mess around with them, they'll blow up. Thus, the ending. Not a bad contrivance, probably the best ever.

So don't worry about that one idea that would save your story but just doesn't fit. Don't fret about how to get from point A to point B. Throw it in there. Just remember your “hints”, remember those subconscious suggestions... and go with it. Contrivances are sometimes the stepping stones to greatness.

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HypoAlley said...

Wonderfully written my friend! Your book has been quite the rollercoaster to read and I can't wait to see where te ride ends!!! However, I will be jumping right back on to ride it all over again! Thanks for a great post! Tracy Sain

Erin O'Riordan said...

I'm glad you're connecting with Brad's book, Tracy!