Coincidence? I think not!

Coincidence? I think not!

“But while I advise you to embellish, I forbid you to depart from what is plausible. The reader has every right to feel aggrieved when he realizes that too much is being asked of him. He feels that the author is trying to deceive him, his pride suffers and he simply stops believing the moment he suspects he is being misled.” An Essay On Novels – The Marquis de Sade

Isn’t that great advice? Whether you write by the seat of your pants (pantser) or you meticulously plot out your story (plotter), you eventually will come to a point where you write yourself into a corner or your plot hits a wall. You have a couple options: scrap it and start over from the point you got yourself into that mess, or write yourself out of it. If you choose the latter, the challenge is writing a solution without taking the shortcut of using coincidences to bail yourself out. I read this advice from Emma Coates –one of Pixar’s story artists– years ago, and I never forgot it: “coincidences to get your characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it is cheating.” Not only that, like the Marquis said, it asks too much of the reader. image

Nevertheless, good storytelling depends on the element of surprise. No one wants to have the ending figured out in chapter three. The writer’s approach may be to:  1) slowly reveal clues that gradually build to a logical conclusion, or 2) misdirect us with spurious information, or 3) obfuscate the story so that at the climax, the truth is dropped like a bomb on the reader. The trick is to reveal the truth -as shocking as it may be- in a way that the reader think to himself, “of course!” because finally it all makes sense. The worst thing in the world is to leave the reader scratching his head at the end, wondering how the hell he got from there to here in 100,000 words, and regretting buying it on Amazon.

Header image via the poisoned pencil, David Tenant image via Pinterest.





Wide Awake Buzz

Wide Awake Buzz

Week 39 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously. Coffee Beer.

Two more things I love: coffee and beer. (No surprises, right?) This is not about firing up the automatic drip and mixing your Folger’s with your Miller Lite, however. This is a byproduct of the craft-brew movement. Coffee beans are actually used in the brewing process. Either after the initial boil or before going into secondary fermentation, the wort is infused with coffee or coffee beans. The technique seems to vary from brewery to brewery. Any way the combination is achieved, it works beautifully with with some of the darker brews like stout, porter or even dark brown ale. The coffee beer adventure falls on this week because Thursday, September 29 is National Coffee Day.

Our guide had a list of fantastic microbrews to choose from but in my quest to support my local brewery –Freewill, in Bucks County, PA– my coffee beer of choice is their C.O.B. available only in the fall and winter.. Here’s the description from their website:

C.O.B – 8.3% ABV  Fall/Winter Release
This unique and complex seasonal ale is free will’s best-selling seasonal. This very strong brown ale has a delicious malty backbone with notes of caramel, brown sugar and graham cracker. Aged on a unique and complex bean that provides additional peppery and molasses like flavors in addition to the classic coffee presence in the aroma and on the palate.

Nice, right? There is one problem with the coffee beer, something I discovered by accident. There is enough caffeine in some of these beers to actually keep you up at night if you’re sensitive to it. However, in the spirit of “write drunk, edit sober” — at least a coffee beer won’t put you to sleep at your keyboard!

I know Lula probably enjoyed this week’s brew, she used to live in the Pacific Northwest- coffee capital of the USA.