Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Writing Backwards

I occasionally watch movies to help me write my books. I have learned a great deal about story craft that way. In fact, my own writing style was heavily influenced by the Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock reruns I used to watch as a child. I was always intrigued by what was left unsaid...and unseen. I was also fascinated by the dual meaning of words.

So last weekend I went to the library to do research for the book I'm working on. It is the most intense suspense I've ever written and I've been watching a variety of movies and reading lots of books. This helps me create my cast of characters.

I picked up a movie at the library that looked very interesting, The Others, and brought it home. I was watching it on my laptop while I cooked dinner. I was more interested in seeing how the characters interacted with each other than actually watching the movie.

I noticed early on that there was a focus on "The Others". Also, the kids kept alluding to "that day" and what happened. The evil in the house and the bizarre characters were so intense that I nearly turned of the movie...but I didn't.

I am glad I didn't because what I experienced in that final 20 minutes caused me to go back to my manuscript and start "writing backwards". I recognized the duality of nearly every word uttered by every character. I saw how the story had been constructed one way only to show me something else.

Not only that but the struggles of the characters were so real, so intense, that it was only after the story was over that I began to fully grasp all the dimensions. The characters weren't flat caricatures. They had internal and external conflicts that made us immediately sympathetic.

It was so good I took the RARE step of watching the movie a second time the next day. This time I really watched the movie constantly bridging the conflict from one area to another. I kept looking at what it was that connected beginning to end...or rather end to beginning.

So consider as you write your stories where it is you want to end. Are you able to write your story in such a way that your reader is left guessing until the satisfying end. Will they want to flip back to page one and reread the story. Will they keep mulling the story over and over again in their mind? Can you use a single character as a decoy?

The voices of my characters are raging in my head so I have to go satisfy them now.

Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at www.WritingCareerCoach.com
Learn more about Tiffany's Marketing techniques on her main blog.
Common-sense money management is free at The Balanced Life website.
Read Tiffany's award winning manuscript "A Face in the Shadow" on her fiction blog.
She writes a blog for the Christian writer Tuesdays at Writer's Rest.


Jennifer Roland said...

Memento is a great example of starting at the end to understand the beginning. It is extremely dark, but it is a brilliant exploration of time its effect on the story.

Bogdan Zaliskiy said...

Yes, reaaly great story to read, thanks