Thursday, May 26, 2011
I like to ruin surprises
No, really, I do (only for myself, though). If there's one thing I hate in life, it's not knowing stuff. It slays me. It drives me nuts. And I will go out of my way, frequently, often, to find out the endings of things. Yep, I'm talking movies I haven't seen yet, TV series that are episodes (or seasons) behind on Australian TV, birthday presents that are being kept secret, the gender of my daughter at 20 weeks gestation (there was no WAY I was waiting for that one), anything. You don't even want to know what I did to my poor husband when he was about to propose and took a little too long getting around to it...
You may (nay, no doubt will) call me a huge spoilsport for this. In fact, I'm sure many of you are sitting there open-mouthed trying to comprehend what I mean.
Let me elaborate:
If there's a movie I want to see that sounds great, before I go see it, you know what I'll do? I'll go dig up the Wikipedia or IMDB page and read all about it. If I'm watching one on TV and it starts getting a bit suspenseful, out comes Google. There have even been times where I've been enjoying a book so much (yes, it's really coming- it really is...) that I've flipped to the back and read the last page.
I'll give you a sec to stop spluttering.
Family and friends have rolled eyes, told me I'm nuts, and lamented the fact that I'm ruining all my own fun more times than I can count, but I'm a happy camper. It's just my way. I just like to know, and knowing the ending doesn't disappoint me in any way- it brings me an even greater appreciation of the journey to get there.
When it comes to writing, are you at all surprised to hear that I'm an obsessively detailed outliner? For many, the idea of knowing the ending of the story before you start it is slightly horrifying. For others who might start the story with the end in mind, the idea of planning out every event is just ruining the fun of step-by-step discovery. But for me, it's what inspires me, drives my enthusiasm, and keeps me going, and it's necessary for a bigger reason that that.
I've just started a new WIP this week, and I'm in that first flush of love phase. This is the best book idea EVAH. Oh man, what will they put on the cover? Who'll play the main character in the movie? Never mind it hasn't got a title yet and it's all of 2000 words long, it's... yeah, it's love, all right.
At this point, just like a new romance, many writers like to take it slow and steady. Get to know these people and places page by page, and feel out where they're heading. There's anticipation in the unknown, and joy in exploring that dark road one street-lamp at a time.
For me, the first step is to work out everything that's going to happen in the story, and get it down in a huge outline. You could say I'm the kind of writer who goes all the way on the first date (grin). The biggest reason for this, beyond the absolute truckload of excitement and enthusiasm I get from it, is that I'm not good at navigating by street lamp. If I have to follow a story step by step without knowing where I'm going and exactly what landmarks I'll pass on my way, I'll either end up hopelessly lost, somewhere that does me no good at all, or crashed through someone's front fence.
I need to know where I'm going and how to get there, or I'm guaranteed disappointment.
No amount of horrified looks will make me change, because I'm happy, and it works.
But one thing I have realised recently is that I need to approach my fiction the way I do my real-life spoilers. When it comes to all the other endings I have to find out for myself, I would never in a million years ruin them for someone else. And yet when it comes to my own story, I have on occasion been a bit obsessed with telling my crit partners all about it, seeking their thoughts on things I haven't written yet, particularly the ending.
It occurred to me recently that part of what I enjoy about knowing the ending to various things is being able to anticipate and watch the reactions of others to that. But by revealing all to my beta readers before the fact, I take away both their surprise, and my own version of anticipation. I do, in fact, reduce the enjoyment for myself.
I've been told many times that it's best not to tell other people your endings, but I'm really clicking with that now.
So, no spoilers from me on the new story. I'll keep my cards close to my chest on this one- though I already know the order of the whole pack.
Do you love the anticipation of the unknown? Or are you impatient about endings- your own and others- too?