There is a certain satisfaction in seeing something that you never thought would go well do so. Two days ago I finished the ending to a book that was started with one person’s idea over a year ago. I haven’t finished the middle of it yet. Don’t know if I ever will because the story is not mine alone. But I know how it ends. With sacrifice and tears, but with the knowledge that some things are worth everything. Of course, being a romance writer, she gets her happily ever after. I mean, come on…what else, right?
We as authors work toward the end goal of our books. The point where we can say, ‘I’ve told it all. There is no more.’ That point is usually a satisfying conclusion, whether a courtroom drama where the bad guy gets it the way he deserves or an urban fantasy where the good guys win the war. Along the way, though, there is a lot of story to cover, and it’s the steady climb to the top that keeps readers up late at night, turning just one more page.
Like the graphs we used to have to draw in math classes, there will be peaks and valleys along the way. The highs and lows of the hero’s or heroine’s tale, those intense moments of discovery or epiphany, get us as readers. In the hands of a wordsmith, we get carried along with the protag, finding out what makes him or her tick and maybe discovering a few things about ourselves, as well.
It’s those highs and lows that make our characters real and our stories the kind that keep fans coming back for more. It’s at the heights of the peaks or the depths of the valleys, those impact moments, when we authors connect the most with the rest of the human race. Where we can almost hear someone can say yeah, I’ve been there, too. I know how she feels.
Because most of us have experienced our own valleys, it’s easy to identify with the woman who is struggling to raise two children on her own, or the man who just lost his job in a down-sizing economy. We sympathize with the fantasy hero who stands there, sword in hand, one against formidable odds but doesn’t back away, and in the same breath applaud the woman who loves him and who draws her own weapon as she stands next to him. Even if we’ve never been in the exact situation, we get the emotion.
We humans are warehouses of emotions. They swim around through our bloodstreams and rattle our brains. They’re stored in rooms and cubbyholes of our psyches and, some of the darker ones, behind locked doors. They make our hearts sing, our pulses pound, our eyes weep. You can’t write a good story without them, but because a lot of them are painful, we keep them stopped up, so much so that our stories may not have the lows we need to play the highs off against.
We have to tap our emotional kegs in order to catch our readers’ attention, to make them say, yup, that’s how it is. To give them the satisfaction of knowing that our hero deserves the happy ending because we put him through hell to get it. To get that sigh when the final page is read and the cover closed. And maybe even to leave them wanting more.