Ending a Novel Before Tea

7-20-09 Capilano Suspension Bridge and Stanley Park 017When there’s a cup of tea sitting on my desk, something happens to me. It’s probably my subconscious mind seeing what it really wants – caffeine. Even though I haven’t taken a sip yet, I wake up a little. I feel marginally great about life, just knowing it’s there.

These are valuable moments when natural neurotransmitters and hobgoblins wake up creativity. Later, when you drink the stuff, the caffeine causes vascular constriction which takes creativity down a tad, still above baseline though, for me.

I was in tea-anticipation mode for ten minutes just now and finally, after months of whining, found a decent way to move my hero and villain away from their current friendly relationship towards a closing conflict.

It had to be a natural road from here to there. The outline was flexible, so I didn’t feel hemmed in. All I needed was an idea.

In the outline stage, I knew a lot about my villain, but I hadn’t seen her in action. I hadn’t asked her any questions.

It turned out she was nothing like the outline pictured.

Fortunately, the key was the tea. (And not drinking it.)

After seeing her in action, I knew the answers to some key questions:

Why does she hate her mother and feel guilty about it?

What is the worst thing that she’s ever done? How does she feel about it now vs then?

Is she a good person in her own opinion?

Does she have true human values?

Where are the blind spots in her sense of right and wrong?

What scares her the most, and how does she react to it?

After seeing her answers in the first draft, I was stuck. This was the burning question:

What could my hero do to make my 3-D villain frightened enough or angry enough to destroy her?

After months of working on other parts of the story, letting this question simmer, the answer came to me. It came while I was day-dreaming about the characters, away from the desk, doing something else, not even trying to think of an ending.

The tea was, of course, waiting. Tea anticipation causes the lion’s share of creative breakthroughs.

You think I’m kidding.

M. Talmage Moorehead

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