My Thoughts: When the reader doesn’t see it coming

What am I shooting for when I write? I believe every chapter in a novel should end with a sonuvabitch moment.

The Muse came by about midnight. He had been out on the town and was on his way home, wherever that happens to be.

He found me at my word machine.

“What are you doing?” he said.

“Writing,” I said.

“I was here this morning,” he said.

I nodded.

“You were writing then,” he said.

I nodded again.

“Do you write all the time?” the Muse asked.

“It’s what I do.”

“What are you writing so late?” he asked.

“I’m working on my novel,” I said.

“How do you do it?” the Muse asked.

“I sit down late at night and write a chapter for tomorrow,” I said.

“Do you have the novel outlined?” he asked.

“No.”

“Do you have the chapter outlined?” he asked.

“I don’t,” I said.

“Do you know what you’re gonna write?” he asked.

Caleb Pirtle III

“I have the opening to the scene in my head,” I said.

“That’s all?”

“I pretty much know what the first sentence is,” I said.

“When do you figure out the second sentence?” he asked.

“When the character speaks it,” I said. “Then I follow him along and write down what he says.”

“What’s the most important thing to have in a chapter?” he asked.

“A hook,” I said. “Something has to happen. The plot has to move somewhere. The characters have to make a revelation they don’t expect to make.”

“When do you know what that is?” the Muse asked.

“When it happens,” I said.

“What are you shooting for?”

“I believe every chapter has to provide a sonuvabitch moment,” I said.

“What’s that?” he wanted to know.

“When the reader reads the last sentence, I want him or her to look up and say, ‘Well, I’ll be a sonuvabitch. I didn’t see that coming.’ There’s no way they can see it coming. I sure don’t.”

“What are you gonna do when you finish the chapter?” the Muse asked.

“Write my blog for tomorrow,” I said.

“Do you ever try to get ahead?”

“No.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“I dig deadlines,” I said.

“How long have you been writing?” the Muse wondered.

“All my life.”

“Do you know how to do anything else?”

“No.”

“What’ll you do if you ever stop writing?” he asked.

“Die,” I said.

He nodded and leaned over the machine.

“See where you put that period,” he said.

“I do.”

“Knock it out.”

“Why?”

“Put in a comma.”

“Why should I do that?”

“It’ll give you a reason to keep writing,” he said.

I knocked out the period.

I added the comma.

I at least had one more phrase to write, and – who knows – that might lead me into a scene I didn’t know was coming.

So why do I write?

Before I quit at night, I want to read the last sentence I’ve written, sit back, prop my boots up, and say, “Well, I’ll be a sonuvabitch.”

The Muse grinned.

He left out the back door.

He was on the backside of the yard when I heard the last words he spoke for the night.

“Well, I’ll be a sonuvabitch,” he said.

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