The Substance Hoped For – Path of Discovery

When you go on vacation, do you know your starting point? That is probably home, right? Do you know where you are going to go? I hope so. You might have spent some time deciding on your destination, but you eventually picked a target.

You then packed your bags according to your destination and planned what you want to do there. You also decided which roads you will take to get there. In fact, virtually everything you do to get ready depends on your destination. Likewise, your execution of your novel-to-be depends on the chosen destination.

If you just pack stuff because you like it, and you turn out of your drive with no idea where you’re going, you are likely not going to get much of anywhere. What you packed may or may not be of help depending on what destination you blunder into.

Would you read a book that had that lack of focus? Would you want to read chapter after chapter of items in the luggage of that book with no apparent point to them? Would you be fascinated by the path the story takes if the writer doesn’t know where she’s going?

The last writing blog discussed the Point of Attack, your starting place. Once that’s decided, you do NOT start writing the story. You need to write the end. Without having a clear idea where you want to end up, you won’t know what tone to give your writing. You won’t know what needs to happen to get there. You won’t know what street signs to give your reader to help him follow the path that you’ve chosen. You won’t know whether to use signs or breadcrumbs, interstates with ramps or a wooded trail with barely noticeable broken twigs and bent grass.

Do you remember the example I gave for a story of World War II? Is the Nazi on trial sympathetic or not? Should the reader feel good about his hanging or disturbed? These decisions – made prior to writing the story – should affect your tone. It will affect whether you want a clear path or make your reader struggle through the gloom of uncertainty.

For me, a good story is something like a treasure hunt. You lay out clues and rewards for your reader to discover and keep themselves moving through the story. The story that connects the Point of Attack to the end is what I call the Path of Discovery.

That is a very important concept to maintain throughout your writing. Your reader won’t finish your book and certainly won’t buy another unless they are intrigued and satisfied by their accomplishments of discovering the clues and sometimes faint paths you give them to work through.

Sometimes you’ll put your reader on a superhighway, blowing away the speed limits. Other times you’ll want them off the expressway and searching for the path in a woods. People like to be challenged, they like to be made to think.

Don’t believe me? You are, I assume, familiar with the phrase “Spoiler Alert.” People don’t want to know what’s going to happen out of order. They want to be surprised. They want to try to figure out the mystery on their own. Ever tell your date what happens next in the movie you’re watching? Ever get a positive response?

Create a Path of Discovery that will lead your reader toward the conclusion you’ve already laid out. And you can’t know how to lay it out until you know where you are going first!

So how did I decide to end The Substance Hoped for? Did I write one ending…or more? Do you really think I’m going to tell you HERE?


The Substance Hoped For by Jeffrey H. King

Available on line at Authorhouse in hard and soft cover: . Look for the orange cover.

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