Thursday, February 16, 2017

Story Arcs and Trump

Last week, I was asked to create a list of talking points for a television producer to use while pitching a would-be Peyton Cote TV show. The gist was to offer a season-long story arc.

Not an easy task for me. For a few different reasons. First off, I don’t watch a lot of TV. (I’ve read a few scripts then watched the shows to study the craft of scriptwriting.) Second, I’m not big on outlines. When I write a novel, I write a page or two of character sketches before I begin, mostly coming up with motivations and backstories. Sometimes, I write what amounts to the description you’d read on the dust jacket. Then I go –– and follow the story where it leads.

One thing I do have going for me is that I write series fiction. Always. (Even my one stand-alone, This One Day, has a protagonist I’d like to return to.) This speaks to my love of the dynamics between characters and the relationships in the books and also to how and why the crime is always secondary for me.

So thinking in terms of a multi-episode arc and how a larger mystery looms in the background of each episode was a fun and interesting challenge.

It makes me wonder, though, would that work in book-length fiction? Could you have an ongoing unanswered mystery in the background of each book, while characters solve another crime? Ed McBain’s Deaf Man never gets caught in the 87th Precinct series. He never outright succeeds, but he never gets caught. So maybe it’s possible that readers would buy in.

I’d love to hear my Type M colleagues’ and our readers’ thoughts on this.


Food for Thought: Trump

One thing on my mind often of late is this question: What does a Trump presidency mean to publishing? Lots of articles are being written about it. Here’s one. While many are calling this a time of anti-intellectualism and thus a threat to publishing, most believe this is a time when literature is needed more than ever, particularly works celebrating diverse voices. Perhaps this will be a time when inde presses are celebrated more than ever. Houses like Akashic, which has a rich and diverse list.

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