The Wisdom of the WInRs by Miko Johnston

FROM SCREEN TO PAGE, Part 3 with Miko Johnston

Miko Johnston is the author of A Petal in the Wind and the newly released A Petal in the Wind II: Lala Hafstein.

She first first contemplated a writing career as a poet at age six. That notion ended four years later when she found no ‘help wanted’ ads for poets in the Sunday NY Times classified section, but her desire to write persisted. After graduating from NY University, she headed west to pursue a career as a journalist before switching to fiction. Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington. You can find out more about her books and follow her for her latest releases at Amazon.

#  #  #

I sincerely hope you, our readers, find The Writers In Residence blog as enlightening as I do.

Madeline’s recent post on story endings reminded me of a project several writers and I undertook earlier this year. We analyzed different endings, both satisfying and disappointing, and came up with a list, but nothing as contemplative as Madeline’s. There’s a difference between knowing a subject and conveying that knowledge with eloquence.

Gayle’s piece on mining your past reminded me of the importance of authenticity. In fact I touched upon that subject in my earlier blog post on killing your characters. My protagonist loses someone dear to her very unexpectedly. I summed up her reaction in a brief paragraph, taken from my own experience with an identical situation. I still get choked up when I read it, and more than one writer giving critique has as well. Mining your life goes beyond knowledge and experience. At the deepest level you hit real emotion. To ensure that I do, I’m following Kate’s suggestions regarding beta readers.

Creating authenticity in our writing has been a thread recently. Bonnie’s post on research, Jackie Vicks’ on writing what you want to know, and Jackie Houchin’s story based on her missionary experiences in Malawi reminded me of that. My current novel takes place during World War I on the lesser know Eastern front. The subject hasn’t been covered in English language literature, which makes it both unique and challenging. But the challenges go beyond research for me.

Like many writers, I struggle to balance writing time with all the other obligations in my life. I’ve lost my ability to multitask as I’ve grown older – or maybe it’s the lack of time pressure now that I no longer work – but time seems to move faster as I’ve become slower. That’s why Rosemary’s post hit home with me. Years ago I found a very effective organizing system called the Funnel Method. Picture a letter-sized page in landscape format. Divide it into three rows across and seven columns down to create 21 boxes. Label the seven top row boxes with categories of what you need to do: appointments, errands, writing, etc. and list what you need to accomplish each week in the appropriate box. Then use the boxes in the middle row to prioritize your lists, from most to least important. The third row is your weekly calendar; assign a day and time for each task based on its priority. It works brilliantly if you follow it. Unfortunately, I don’t – I rebel against micro-management; like Rosemary, ideal time management eludes me.

So thank you fellow WinRs for sharing your insight and wisdom. It’s made a difference in my writing and, I suspect, has helped other writers who read this blog. I’ll end this post with my contribution – the list of endings I mentioned earlier. See if you agree.

SATISFYING ENDINGS:file3171299616544

Summation – where you bring the previous elements back into play and sum up the action or make a statement.

Partial Summation – where some story lines are tied up, but a few are left unresolved for the sequel (common in serialized novels).

Cozy – where everything’s gonna be alright; it settles down at the end and they all have a cup of tea.

Cinematic – zoom in from the setting to the character(s), or out from the character(s) to the setting (like a movie).

Emotional – tug at the heartstrings and pull out the stops; needs to be carefully handled to avoid crossing over to sappiness.

Bookend – where it mirrors, and often clarifies, the opening scene.

Ambiguous/Cliff hanger – promotes discussion as well as sequels; doesn’t tie everything up into a neat bow.

UNSATISFYING ENDINGS:

Trite – there’s no surprise element; clichéd.

Incomplete – story doesn’t resolve or too many important threads left undone.

Abrupt – too rushed or sudden, like a curtain dropping; doesn’t provide satisfaction.

Prolonged – too slow or dragged out; destroys the tension of the climax.

Martians landed – euphemism for a scenario dropped in without being set up.

Cheap shot – solving the issue without input from protagonist.

Mismatched – ending doesn’t have anything to do with the beginning.

Incoherent – ending doesn’t make sense or is rambling.

Sappy – emotionally overdone; turns maudlin or trite.

 

9 thoughts on “The Wisdom of the WInRs by Miko Johnston”

  1. What an excellent post, Miko! I also know I’ve gained so much from insights shared here, and you’ve so logically and clearly presented some key points that brings it all together. Thanks, gave me some points/ideas to think about.

    Like

  2. I am sure I have read or watched a movie with every ending you mentioned. Whether I throw the book across the room or put it on my “favorite books” shelf depends on how the author began and then how they ended the book. Same goes with a movie. But I do hate to be cheated. I won’t read the ending ahead of time. Just can’t do that to the writer. But if they short-changed me, I’ll never read another one of their books. And I have a very good memory. Very fun, thought-provoking post.

    Like

  3. Very enlightening post, Miko. I am also so reassured to learn other writers wrestle with the time management demon–not to mention the struggle to craft a satisfying ending. Thanks for the checklist of What Not To Do!

    Like

    1. Thanks, Bonnie. We all struggle, don’t we, whether it’s with what we’re writing or Kate’s famous BIC principle (aka ‘butt in chair’). I thought this topic would be timely with NaNoWriMo coming up soon. For our readers who plan to tackle an entire novel in one month (that has only 30 days including Thanksgiving), I wish you all good luck.

      Like

  4. Thanks, Miko – I, too, learn a little bit of this, a little bit of that from our Blog posts… always informative, and often humorous. And now I have yet another organizational tool to try: the Funnel Method. Thanks – I think….

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s