Wednesday, July 22, 2009

After the Climax

Should I bask in the afterglow? Or is it better to sneak out while the memory still has him breathing heavy? Is he asleep now, anyway? (Is the preference gender specific?) In my process of shortening CONFLUENCE I recently did some serious analysis of my last chapter. Some of it is totally necessary to how things end up, but a lot of it was the tidying up of ‘what happened to so-and-so’. Do I mention the trial? Do the bad guys go to jail? Does the nut get therapy? What is the best way to end things? Is all that matters that it’s OVER, or is there a need for some closure? My son is ten and I still read with him almost nightly. We’ve read some GREAT books together and there is a noticeable trend. He is COMPLETELY uninterested in the prologue and the epilogue. Just read the book, mom! You see, he doesn’t consider the prologue or epilogue as part of the story. I, on the other hand, want the juicy set-up of the prologue. I love that anticipation of where it will fit in. I like to get a little tingly before dive in. And I want the tie-up of the epilogue, maybe just to make sure the Author really remembered all the plot strands, but I definitely want to know how it REALLY ended up. I don’t know whether these preferences are his maleness, or his ten-ness (or my femaleness or forty-somethingness), or if they are just stylistic preferences. It DOES, however, offer a solution to my own dilemma. I’ve pulled out the extraneous stuff from the last chapter and put it into an epilogue. The people who don’t want it, don’t have to read it—their story will be complete without the pesky aftermath of who is supposed to call whom, but those of us who prefer he spend the night spooning us, will have the option. I’d love to hear others’ preferences on how a book ends!

6 comments:

Galen Kindley--Author said...

My first book has both a prologue and an Epilogue. They’re in a completely different setting than the book’s action—the Oregon coast on a winter night. The one sets up the reader for what is to happen, providing a little context. (I love context.) The epilogue brings the reader back to Oregon after the main action and closes any potential reader questions…well, most reader questions. My second book has neither.

Here’s a problem with prologues. When asked to submit the first few chapters, or pages, do you, or don’t you, include the prologue? It’s got nice to know stuff, but isn’t really germane to the first bit of action. But, on the other hand, without this knowledge, the chapters mean so much less. It’s a problem for sure.

Until I become rich and famous….HA!...I probably won’t do another prologue. Epilogues, however work pretty easily.

Best regards, Galen

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

My book coming out Aug. 1 has a prologue--I murdered someone in it. But editors aren't supposed to like them. No one took it out, though!

My son (12) doesn't like epilogues, either. Seems anticlimactic to him, if I understand him right.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Watery Tart said...

Thank you, both of you! I have a prologue, but it is just 2 pages, and could feasibly be done as a flashback later in the book, I suppose--

I was trying to set up the mood, because in the book a family moves to a new place and the weird things at first are only a LITTLE wierd, and then build, so I was hoping to promise more, if you will.

I have not typically sent it in, but then, it WAS twice as long, and didn't go with the early chapters, so it was about not wanting to confuse...

Galen-Oregon is my state of choice (if not currently location)--I went to college there and stayed for over a decade after. I miss it!

Cruella Collett said...

Generally, I'm an epilogue-person too. Love them, want them. I like closure! (My guess, based on the note and the previous comments, are that more than a 10 vs 40 preferance, it might be a male vs female thing, or possibly a writer vs reader for entertainment dividing line.)

Specifically, though, being one of the lucky few who has read the complete and uncut CONFLUENCE, I'd say the prologue is necessary (though perhaps not as a sample for editors), since the information revealed is important and also important at an early stage, and it doesn't fit very well with the other flashbacks etc.
For prologues that are not directly tied to the main action, but important for it (like the one Galen describes, I'm guessing), I prefer them to be set aside as prologues. Same goes for epilogues.

Back to CONFLUENCE - the when I read it the structure was not the same for the epilogue. I feel it is less pertinent for a separate section in this case, since everything summed up is directly tied to the main story. In this case I think I'd actually perfer it in the main text rather than as an epilogue, but I understand the need for not turning the final chapter into a marsh (the previous 3-4 being absolutely packed with action).

Anyway, whatever you decide, good luck! And congratulations with being done with the (for now) killing darlings. You've done an awesome job!

Carnimire said...

I am a self-confessed epilogue junkie, so feel free to ignore all I say.
I personally judge a book by its prologue and its epilogue. And I like epilogues that don't just tie up the loose ends of the story, but also create a few new ones for me to chew on.
Confluence is the kind of story that can definitely benefit from an epilogue, even if that involves shifting some stuff from the post climatic last chapter to that.

As for the Prologue - I think the Prologue of Confluence is just perfect. You need to have that stuff right there to set the tone - putting it in as a flashback sort of kills it.

Watery Tart said...

Thank you, fabulous ladies who have READ the book! That is helpful and reinforces what I have been thinking works best.

Mari--the killing darlings hasn't been quite as painful as I expected, but I believe this is because my review process had it out of my hands for about 3 months before I got the painful "shorten it" message through my thick skull. It currently sits at 604 pages and I think I can get those 4 off in my final polish (shorter if I don't go to a new doc for each chapter). That 50K word cut (almost 25%) cuts about 3 little sub-plots, but mostly is consolidating, rewording, and using strong verbs instead of weak verbs with an adverb. It's a less passive voice, and though I don't find the dialog quite as realistic, it is probably smoother reading. (less stutters and stumbling over words)