“Yes, she's bleeding to death upstairs, but I thought I'd avoid telling you right away, because I like to draw the suspense out.”
– Cassandra Clare, City of Fallen Angels
The Valley of the ForeshadowAt the end of the Beginning, we carried the Reader's Interest over into the Body of the Story, shifting the focus from arousing curiosity about the Story Problem to maintaining suspense regarding its Resolution. We generated this interest by promising a difficulty, a disaster, or an encounter with opposing forces. Do not now delay that encounter!
The Chief Actor will be confronted with one or more obstacles preventing resolution, and with some aiding or assisting it. These Forces need not alternate as in the graphic, and they need not end in success (Comedy). The Chief Actor may be defeated (Tragedy.) These Forces may be major or minor, and their arrangement comprises the Plot.
A Story is a series of meetings arranged for dramatic effect. This arrangement may be
- Chronological (most common)
- Chronological with Flashbacks
- Chronological with Cross-cuts
- Parallel sequences
- Reverse sequence
Brunner's The Shockwave Rider does something similar.
- Incident: a single act of a single force
- Episode: a meeting of two forces without clash
- Encounter: a meeting of two forces with clash
"As soon as he spied the policeman Henry tiptoed across the street."
- The Force is Henry
- The Stimulus is the sight of the policeman
- The Act is tiptoeing across the street
"Adam fought the rush hour crowds and took the A-train uptown"
As soon as he spied the policeman Henry tiptoed across the street, and coming up behind the officer, tapped him lightly on the shoulder. ‘I’m going up the street for about two minutes. Keep your eye on the door of that garage, and if anyone comes out, blow your whistle.’ The policeman nodded. ‘Don’t be long. There may be something doing any minute now.’
- Force 1: Henry
- Force 2: the policeman
At the sight of Henry, the policeman stiffened, his hand reaching instinctively for his revolver.‘Don’t get excited,’ said Henry. ‘I’m just going up the street for a minute.’The policeman gazed at him coldly. ‘That, you are not. Nobody leaves this alley before the Chief gets here.'‘That doesn’t include reporters, does it?’‘Think not?’ The policeman continued to regard Henry without smiling.It wasn’t worth it, Henry decided, and retreated back into the shadows.
Cindy exited the tree-shrouded trail to find herself facing a paved road. To the right, the road skipped over the creek on a brief concrete bridge to join the state highway. To the left, it curved north and out of sight. It didn’t look like there would be much in the way of accommodations either way. The fleshpots of Xanadu might be just around that bend, but she harbored doubts.
That left the big stone-and-wood building directly across the road. A large board sign above the entrance proclaimed it the Tatamy Book Barn: Old and Used Books. In the parking lot, three cars and a pick-up truck, also old and used, suggested that the building remained open.
God dumped a truckload of scrap metal on the sky, which turned bright brass for an instant, and that made up her mind. Cindy hitched up her backpack and strode confidently toward the entrance – just as the heavens let loose.
Stride became run, but she was drenched before she reached the door. She ducked through and backed against it, as if the tempest would try to force its way after her. The woman behind the counter looked up at this sodden eruption, took in Cindy and her appearance, and cocked a sardonic smile. “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.
-- Flynn, "Moonrise Over Tatamy"
Gallishaw's Eighth Law of Interest
Five Steps of a Scene
- Bring Actor and Opponent together
- Show the Purpose of One
- Show the Interchange
- Show the Conclusive Act
- Describe the Effect
- Bring Actor and Opposition together
- After the funeral, Karik’s son Flojian asks Chaka to stay behind.
- Flojian means to pass on a legacy his father left for Chaka
- Who, me? Yes, you.
- Flojian gives her a copy of Connecticut Yankee.
- Chaka refuses. The ancient manuscript is much too valuable.
- Flojian insists she take it. "It's in Father's will."
- She accedes.
- Both Flojian and Raney [Chaka's suitor] think she should sell the book and use the money to expand her business; but she refuses. In a series of follow-on episodes, curiosity grows over where Karik had found such a rare folio.
Above their heads, but below the springline of the dome, stretched the famed Harpaloon Murals, painted fifty years before by Hendrik Pak Gbọnju. Bold, broad, bigger than life, they portrayed the great migrations of the mythic past. Thick-hewn men and resolute women moved west in ox-drawn “prairie schooners,” Cossacks trudged east through S’birski snows, Zhõgwó families creaked in great two-wheeled carts up the Gansu Corridor, Magreebees homesteaded in the decaying suburbs of Yurp. Across the banks of the Great Fish River, Four-trekkers heading north greeted Mantu cattlemen heading south. Here too, legendary figures posed: Jacinta Rosario peered across the rusty sands of Mars; Yang huang-ti pointed dramatically to the lichen-covered plains of Dao Chetty; Chettiwan Mahadevan, hands a-hip, stared at the crumpled ruins of the first-found prehuman city on New Mumbai.
It was all very improbably epic, the harper thought while standing on line for Inbound Customs. Gbọnju’s imagination had wrestled with history and had pinned history defeated to the mat.
Suspension in Dialogue
“What should we do, Alan?” she asked.
“What we should do is...,” he said.
“What should we do, Alan?” she asked.
Alan would not look at her. He picked up a book and put it down again. “I heard from Kovacs this morning.”
“What has that got to do with…?”
“He sounded worried.” Alan drifted to the window and lifted the blind a little bit from the side. The street below was deserted. Or seemed to be.
“I think what we should do is...,” he said…
“Not Enough Story Interest”When an Editor (or Reader) says that there is not enough "Story Interest" in your Story, she usually means in your Plotting or your Presentation.
- Too few Fifth Step Crises to keep reader in suspense regarding the Resolution
- Not enough Encounters to provide a sense of conflict
- Not enough Clash in the meetings you did select
- Incidents and Episodes in between Fifth Step Crises are not sufficiently interesting to carry reader to the next Fifth Step Crisis
There, then, Manallace and I met. He told me that she had asked him whether the book need now be published; and he had told her this was more than ever necessary, in her interests as well as Castorley’s.
‘She is going to be known as his widow—for a while, at any rate. Did I perjure myself much with him?’
‘Not explicitly,’ I answered.
‘Well, I have now—with her—explicitly,’ said he, and took out his black gloves. . . .
As, on the appointed words, the coffin crawled sideways through the noiselessly-closing doorflaps, I saw Lady Castorley’s eyes turn towards Gleeag.
-- "Dayspring Mishandled" (Kipling)
It is an Episodic scene giving significance to the earlier Encounter of John Henry with the steam drill. Once again, we have a symbolic act. Ben has failed in his effort to hold himself aloof, and his impulsive act has placed himself firmly with Henry and the others.Ben's eyes burned. He took hold of Henry's hammer. The handle was smooth from the tallow, the head still warm from the kinetic energy. He ran his hands up and down the handle.
Then he stood and, before he even knew what he was doing, he began driving on Henry's stake. The steel rang and Ben heard gasps from the tunnel, and running feet. Then there was nothing but the hammer, and the steel. He swung with all his might, feeling the spike sink into the rock like it was butter. He recovered and struck again. And again. And again.
The tears came now, blending in with the sweat that poured off his brow. The tunnel rang with the echoes of his strokes and Henry's laughing bass was mixed in with them somehow. He breathed in sobs, in time to his hammer. The feeling of indescribable power was on him as the mountain gave way to his will. He was exalted and grinned in a fearsome rictus.
Then strong hands took hold of him, and the hammer was taken from his grasp, and he was half-carried, half-led, still weeping, up the tunnel toward the day.(Analog, Jun 1988)