Writing Rules

Climbing the Impossible Pyramid

There’s a TV show I watch. For the sake of my reputation, let’s call it Guilty Pleasure. As entertaining as I find the show, I prefer to keep it anonymous because it’s pretty lame.

Something struck me as I was watching Guilty Pleasure the other night that made me compare it to writing a novel. I noticed that no matter how bad things got for the main characters…it got worse. If the hero is locked in a pit, that’s bad enough, but then before the bad guy walks off laughing, he opens the valve on a pipe that spews water and is sure to drown our hunk. Ugh! Someone comes to save him. Ah! Before he can be freed, in walks another bad guy. Ugh! Savior attacks! Ah! Misses. Ugh! 

You get the picture. The writers constantly upped the ante, keeping the suspense building only until it reached a point where the up and down risked making the viewer sick of the ride.

I’ve heard the advice over and over again. Put your hero/heroine into an impossible position and then make it even more so. This doesn’t just apply to suspense or thriller novels. How many times have you read a romance where the love interests begin to come together only to have something happen that rips them apart—usually over and over again—before they live happily ever after?

Picture it as standing at the bottom of a pyramid. The hero is on one corner, the heroine on another, and the third corner is for the antagonist, whoever or whatever that may be. Each climbs to the next level (ah!). The heroine slips and falls back (ugh!). She rallies and catches up to the her0 (ah!), but soon the hero slips (ugh!). Meanwhile, the antagonist keeps climbing, threatening to ruin the lives of our lovely couple (ugh!). Finally, they all reach the top (ah!), but there’s only room for two on the last level (ugh!). Someone or something must go over the edge.

Every book, no matter the amount of humor or drama, should have those moments when it seems impossible to reach a happy ending. It all keeps you, the reader, with your nose stuck between the covers until the last page and has you anxiously awaiting the next story by that same writer.

It also keeps me going back to a television show that my child laughs at me for watching! Speaking of which…I think it’s on again. See ya.

What say you? Have you ever read a book that didn’t have enough of the “ah” and “ugh” moments? How would you have liked to have seen it done differently?

As an author of heartwarming historical and contemporary romance, Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

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