Friday, December 2, 2011

MIS- oh, wait, what's that moving over there? - DIRECTION...

Misdirection is key to "The Missionary and the Brute". I had the idea from the very start that nothing would be as it seemed. I wanted to disorient and slightly confuse the reader at times as to place and time and I wanted to lead them astray with every step.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Foremost is that it's darned fun to do. I especially work this at transitional scenes. I will pose a hypothetical question at the end of a chapter and sometimes literally answer it in the beginning of the next. Only it may or may not be the real answer - it may just seem that way. Like the time when I tell you that the killer is actually...
...okay, maybe I don't go that far.

But secondly, it's a defense mechanism. When I was going to college way back when, I was a theatre major and often worked as stage manager for the shows that came to perform on our stage. One of the shows was a version of "Midsummer Night's Dream" and the guy who played Puck had some down time. He wasn't getting along with the other members of the cast very well, so he came out to eat with us and hung in our dorm talking, talking, talking... Puck noticed that I had a manuscript setting on my desk and saw that it was a novel I had written called "Man-soldier".

It was a pretty fair work for a college kid - and I still have it - but as he read the first chapter Puck suddenly stated, "And I suppose he dies in the end." It wasn't a question. He then talked at length about how some things could be foreshadowed and some shouldn't be, and that the reader didn't want to know too much too soon.

That always hung with me. I had written a novel (granted - while I was in college) that was PREDICTABLE. That was certainly not to be the case with "The Missionary and the Brute". There are twists and turns constantly. I try to lead the reader in one direction only to pull the rug out and leave them scrambling for literary footing...

The main mystery of course is "who is the killer?" And then we realize, 'oh, crap!' "Who is the VICTIM?" As we go along, we are many times headed one way and then turn slightly askew and our questions start changing.

There is one major hint in the book. It is what I call my Meerkat island moment. In "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel (talk about your major twists!!!) there is a scene on an island of meerkats that is entirely surreal - teeth are found inside of fruit, meerkats exist outside of Africa, none of it truly makes much sense if we are dealing with a real world. However, that's just it. Even though up to this point Martel has masterfully let us feel we are in a real world situation - one replete with detailed characterizations and settings, but here we interrupt that naturalism with a scene of pure fantasy. That is the point where the reader is forewarned that there maybe other non-real-to-our-earth moments ahead. Had we not had that, we would've been more likely to reject the ending as it slaps us in the face. Sheer genius that.

My Meerkat island moment is what may appear to be a typo or a bit of sloppy characterization at first. It's a moment that an editor would look at in a continuity sense and simply change without giving it a second thought. But I think subliminally the reader will catch it but let it go. And if they catch it overtly, it will only annoy them in passing - it's not a major thing - but will jump back to mind when we have the final amazing reveal in the last chapter.

The final reveal contains a twist of fairly significant proportions. Right up there with twist books and films like "Life of Pi", "The Machinist", "Sixth Sense", "Fight Club", and so forth... If you like everything to be telegraphed ahead of time nice and neat - I'm not your guy.

Sorry if I lead you astray...

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