Tuesday, January 4, 2011

IRREVOCABLE - In Fiction and In Life

Last night I read a succinct description of what ever commercial fiction climactic scene needs:  "Don't just stand there, DO something."

In other words, the protagonist in the story should act.  Not just move around the page, but take final, irrevocable action towards victory.

The author of the book spent some time discussing what makes a decision irrevocable and I was forced to consider my protagonist's finale through new eyes.

- An irrevocable act cannot be undone.  At all:  The hero pulls the trigger on a gun.  That bullet is leaving even though he regrets it a millisecond later.

- An irrevocable act closes a door:  An abused wife has herself sterilized to ensure she'll never bring children into the relationship.

- An irrevocable act requires others to act if they are in opposition:  Bullied Teen posts naked pictures of Popular Girl on the internet - who in turn has them removed and reports Bullied Teen to the Police.

All good stuff, right?  Of course it's good to put my protagonist in situation that forces them into a corner, then watch them fight their way out.  Since I've prepared and equipped them throughout the story, even these possibly awful (but also unavoidable) actions will end in triumph... eventually.

But the whole concept got me thinking - not just about my book, but about my writing life.  The thing about irrevocable acts is that they really are... well... irrevocable.  Sometimes I think we writers make decisions without recognising the definitive step we're taking - or requiring of others. 

So, in 2011 I'm challenging myself (and you) to consider professional decisions under the same microscope - and step carefully. 

- An irrevocable act cannot be undone. At all:  Weary of rejections, Author decides to self-publish novel, then discovers Publishers won't take submissions for a book already in print or they dismiss later writing attempts because self-published work wasn't to traditional publishing standards.

- An irrevocable act closes a door:  Author sends query / submission before the book is cooked to agent or publisher of choice.  Agent / Publisher of choice reads submission, rejects it and dismisses later submissions because they assume the second (or fifth) submission will be similarly undeveloped and they've got other submissions coming from authors whose books are cooked.

- An irrevocable act requires others to act if they are in opposition: Unsatisfied with a form rejection, Author sends Agent an email, explaining at length a) why their book is ripe for publishing; or, b) the agent hasn't understood something that would change their mind about the rejection; or, c) how the agent is unfairly and selfishly withholding notes that might help the author make it right.  Agent not only ignores the email, but blocks author's email address and tells five friends at a conference the Author's name in a hilariously exaggerated recount of the email.

I am simplifying and dramatizing, but think it through.  The only thing we can control is our own actions.  The publishing world is a very small town.  It's worth making sure that each and every step we take in it is measured and wise - even if it means being patient a little longer, revising a little more, or studying harder. 

Just like your protagonist, if you've explored every option and prepared yourself for battle, the final, irrevocable act will equal victory rather than defeat.  And we here at Seeking the Write Life will be clapping you the podium.

Let's make 2011 our best writing year yet!


  1. I like that, thinking about the scene under a microscope. Also, the examples were very helpful. Thanks for this.

    AubrieAnne @ http://whosyoureditor.blogspot.com/

  2. Hi Aimee! I popped over from T.Anne's:) Very insightful post, you've me some things to mull over!