I completed a new novel, another thriller/crime/mystery, and sent in the final edits. I got the title, Blaze In, Blaze Out, from a hunter friend and former colleague. Nick explained that if you hunt, 80% of you has to be covered in blaze orange to prevent accidental shootings. You wear it in and you wear it out. Hence, Blaze in, Blaze Out. In your stand, you can wear camouflage to fit the type of terrain you are in (hope I stated and explained that correctly, Nick).
For those of you who have read my books, I write what I call “Patterson Chapters.” I named them after one of my favorite authors, James Patterson. His chapters end in such a way that they propel the reader to the next chapter and so on until the book is finished. His chapters rarely give a reader a break. The reader feels compelled to keep moving, keep going.
I also like to bounce my chapters from one character to another, from one scene to another. Like the “Patterson Chapter” it keeps the reader moving along. I try to make the chapters interesting enough so that in frustrates the reader just enough to want to read more to get to his or her favorite character to find out what happens next.
At one point in Blaze, I could have gone one of three ways. I could have continued with the previous scene. I could have shifted to another main character to bring the reader back to a particularly tense situation. I could have checked out the investigation into what was happening behind the scenes that places two characters (and if you know my work, several other characters) in danger.
I was in a bit of fog.
At that point, I didn’t know which way to go. From my vantage point facing the cold keyboard and the previous 41K+ words I’ve already written, I couldn’t see clearly enough to know what I wanted to write next. All three will be tackled eventually. I know that. But I wasn’t sure which path to take that pleased me enough to know that the reader will be content and pleased as well.
It wasn’t a writer’s block. I rarely have that. Usually, I can and will write myself out of it if a block occurs. My dilemma was great for a writer to have: a choice of three satisfying options in which to turn. Satisfying for me, which makes it satisfying for the reader. If it isn’t satisfying for me, I know it won’t be for the reader.
You see, the writer and the reader meet and in some odd way, are married on some sort of mythical bridge. At times, we walk together. At times, I- the writer- will lead the reader onward and then leave the reader to walk on his or her own. But ultimately, if the story is big enough, satisfying enough, the reader takes the story and goes his or her way alone without my lead. In that respect, I- the writer- placed the reader on a path for him or her to walk and ponder and question all alone in his or her own way.
I faced a similar dilemma in the new book I just began. The difference was that it was at the beginning, the very first chapter. I could have unfolded the story slowly. That way, the reader would be gently led to where I wanted and needed the reader to go. On the other hand, I could have slapped the reader up alongside the head and then fill in the details as they read further. I chose the latter.
You see, I believe the writer should opt for action where and when possible. The story will unfold in its own way on its own time. The reader, however, needs and wants action, especially in the opening pages. If you lose the reader at the beginning, you won’t get the reader back. If the reader travels along with the writer from the beginning, chances are you will have the reader for the long haul. That’s what we all want, anyway, right?
Trust your instincts. When in doubt, opt for action. You cannot go wrong. Action is your friend, your co-conspirator. Opt for action at all costs. The rest of the story will make its way in its own time.