Tuesday, August 9, 2016

MC MUST Raise The White Flag

An instructor presented an idea in a class I attended. I'll admit up front I did not believe her.

I didn't think it was necessary.

Wasn't convinced.

That same day I saw the concept played out in a story. A real, published story. I pointed at the words accusingly. 

Really? The teacher was right.

The concept ripped apart the best of what I had learned. A well written story should not have to say anything overtly. We transport the reader to MC's setting. Help her smell aromas instead of saying the dinner tasted good. Let the silky-soft rose pedal touch the reader's skin. Sense the warmth of the hero's lips as MC's skin tingles. Writers paint vivid pictures with words drawing the reader into developing and understand MC's journey. 



Here is the necessary evil concept, for which I have crawled on the bandwagon: MC must somehow verbalize that she/he learned, changed, finished her journey. She needs to say the words. Not allude. No word art. Specifically say the words at the end of her journey.

Oh ho, you think that's crazy, right? As I said above, a well written story shouldn't need an outward declaration by the MC. Yeah. I used to think so, too. But, alas and alack I have changed.

Brief commercial break. Did you know alas and alack is an idiom combining a pair of terms with similar meaning. The first syllable in each word is like a sigh; las is from Old French meaning weariness; and lack is from Middle English meaning loss.

Back to the post.
Here is an example to help you understand the extent of this required confession by MC at the end of her journey: Andy is the MC in Devil Wears Prada. Her journey, as far as she knows, is to climb the career ladder by pleasing her boss. "If I can stick it out for one year I can get a job anywhere." 

Her friends see her change. One said, "The Andy I knew...I don't know this glamazon." Her boyfriend walked away from their conversation saying,"The person you're on the phone with...that's who you have a relationship with." Andy denies any of this is true

At the end of the story, Andy makes a 180. She meets her former boyfriend in a restaurant and starts the conversation with--you guessed it--her confession and summary of her growth on this journey. 

Andy:  "I just--I wanted to say you were right about everything. That I turned my back on my friends and my family. And for what?"
Her boyfriend: "For shoes, and jackets, and belts."
Andy: "Nate...I'm sorry." 

See? There is was. The confession and summary of her many paged-journey verbally spoken by the MC. No hints. Spelled out in black ink.

Why does MC's confession/summary of journey have to be present?

1. To prove MC really ended this journey.
2. To prove the necessary loose ends have been tied up.
3. To confirm what we the reader figured out and saw in the excellent story telling.
4. To be "the red ribbon on the story."

How can we incorporate this necessary component in our story without sounding boring?

I wondered the same thing. The restaurant conversation I mentioned worked well. 

I turned to the last chapter of my WIP and read it again, (yours may fall in the second to the last chapter to allow for wrap up story). Out loud. Sigh....the chapter was missing a certain panache. Je ne sais qui.

Mine didn't have the satisfying ending of stories like:
Scarlett O'hara.
Iron Man's
Carton from a Tale of Two Cities 
Scrooge, etc.

All have the MC confessing/summarizing their journey at the end. Even Carton from a Tale of Two Cities did despite the guillotine. Now that took crafty writing.

It's there. Crystal clear. No implying, interpretation, imagination needed. Whether in thought or spoken. It's there. 

I thought about how my MC would chose to confess/summarize her journey. It took only a moment once I resigned to this idea. MC chose to leave a note. The reader sees her compose the words and leave the envelope on her bed. (this was the portion I added).

Time to wave the white flag. Sharpen your creative spirit and allow MC to recognize outwardly, specifically, crystal clear her confession/summary from this journey. 

I realize this will take some time. You'll want to go back to your WIP and read the last chapter or two. You may have to ask MC how she wants to communicate this confession. It's only a line or two and will bring a satisfying close to the story.

BUT, I also want to hear from you. 
1. Am I the last to figure this concept out?
2. Are you as leery as I was about overtly communicating your MC's confession/summary of journey?
3. Tell us one component of your current WIP (yes, I am working to hear from you. I love your input.)

I can't wait to read your comment(s)!

Help others--tweet or FB share this post


Rock climbing, white-water rafting, zip lining, and hiking top Mary's list of great ways to enjoy a day. Such adventures can be found in her stories as well.

Mary writes young adult mystery/suspense, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and tell Bible event stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids. She has finaled in several writing contests.

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Casey said...

I don't like to over communicate a point either in my writing, but it is so important to show your character's change--like you said. Susie May Warren and Rachel Hauck have also said: what can your character do at the end of the book that they couldn't or wouldn't do at the beginning? Great way to show their change!

Unknown said...

Hi Mary: Your post raises several interesting questions that will significantly impact on writers reading this. In the name of ‘Mystery’ and bowing to some desires we gleam from readers, as to what they ‘want’ in a story, many authors do leave closure involving change, to the imagination and interpretation of the reader. I always want to see it in black and white (in print) that the MC in addition to the supporting characters have ‘gotten it’, the meaning of it, which creates a change in the thinking and or behavior of the MC and others. In my WIP writing, the MC’s and supporting characters will be significantly ‘changed’, ‘transcended’ due to the events that they are involved. The reader will not only be prepared throughout the story that ‘substantive change and meaning’ is developing, but they will experience ‘the crescendo’, so to speak, of this meaning at the end. This is what I’m striving for. We’ll see. I enjoyed reading and learning from your ‘Post’, Mary. Thanks again and I hope that you have a great day!

Robin E. Mason said...

Mary as i read through your post i have to admit what you are suggesting sounds like stepping outside the storyworld. but i've seen The Devil Wears Prada and that scene works. [of course it does!] of course i had to check my two published MS and my WIP to see if i pulled it off and i think i did... LOL thanks for a wonderful post and something new to think about!!!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Hmmm...I was with you on this. But I realized I unconsciously really appreciate it when its done well. Tolkien and Lewis pull it off well. I love the scene when Samwise and Frodo talk about what they've learned on their journey and there are more subtle spots throughout the book that show the character growth and journey as well. Great post, Mary!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I like that Tolkien scene, too. When it's done right the lesson learned livens the scene. The key is to find the best way for each MC.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I have to agree wit you. When I think of stories like Scrooge, the story heightened when he realized his need to change then followed through. His acts of kindness were so 180, almost bumbling with excitement--I loved it.

I wonder, though, only because I don't know a story off the top of my head, if ending an MC's journey without knowing if she really changed even in the smallest measure would bring a satisfying ending.

Your word, crescendo is a good picture of an MC's story arc. Thanks so much for chatting with us today!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I'm thinking that this is probably something that is instinctively included in well written stories, we just don't always realize we are showing in s clear way that MC changed. And, like any other detail in editing, we should look and make sure this revelation is included in some way.

Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with us!

Mary Vee Writer said...

So, Julia,
look up the comment I wrote for Casey, I hadn't moved the screen low enough to notice you were the one who mentioned Tolkien.

And Casey,
Susie and Rachel have great writing advice. Their program is so helpful. Yes, the MC needs to grow/change throughout the story and this moment recorded in the perfect way to match MC's personality. The choices are endless. That is the beauty of story.
Thanks so much for sharing Susie and Rachel's teachings!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Glenn Bowman left me this fantastic comment regarding this post. Thanks, Glenn!

I read you latest post for The Alley Cats and I assume MC is my Main Character. If so, then he or her must spill their guts out as a last-resort effort in reaching their main goal in the arc of my story. The white flag then becomes a Moment of Grace for the character and a high point in my plot. And if I review my work in progress (WIP?) and I find a white flag, I'm golden.

Unknown said...

Hi Mary, regarding your statement, 'I wonder, though, only because I don't know a story off the top of my head, if ending an MC's journey without knowing if she really changed even in the smallest measure would bring a satisfying ending', I'm sure that this does happen!
In Michael Ende’s book, The Never Ending Story, it took quite a while for Bastian to understand the tremendous role he had in the saving of Fantasia. While the MC had to think of a new name for the princes and at the end decided on giving her his mother’s name, the princes instructed him to ‘speak’ the new name. I'll have to re-read the ending, but I think while Bastian alludes to the fact that he has been 'changed', I wouldn't be surprised if we as the readers due to enthusiasm and passion evoked within us because of the impact of the MC, and the story, that we, surmise that, 'he has been changed’. Whether we as the reader hear or read the MC say the words may depend more on the creativity and imagination of the person reading the story, than on the MC. This makes me think about how often we as readers may finish the story as we interpret 'the perfect ending' to be regardless of whether the words have been expressed by the MC. I guess maybe one reason to make sure that we as authors have the MC ‘say the words’ that reflect true understanding and change is to ensure that we are truly relaying the message that we wish the reader to receive. Thanks for sharing your thought on this. Got me thinking which is always nice.