If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read this post–yet!
After having just watched the movie Arrival, I am marveling at the story telling. It was mind-blowing, but not in what we were told, not in what we were shown, but in what we weren’t told; what wasn’t shown. In the negative space of the story.
We were given all the facts. Aliens come to our world. A linguist works on figuring out their language. As she does so she has flashes of scenes of her and her daughter. The trick that the screen writers played on us was showing us the first scene in the movie out of context, and then slipping to the beginning of the movie. We assume that the story is linear (since most of the time that assumption would be correct) and therefore that the prologue happened before the start of the movie. It is only at the end of the movie that we realize that it was the end, the future that we were show, and that the scenes the heroine envisions are not flashbacks, but flash-forwards.
The most wonderful thing about the movie, and about any good book, is that it didn’t end when the screen went to the credits. The movie continued in our minds—indeed, we couldn’t stop thinking about it, deconstructing it, discussing it. That is a great story!
I’ve recently been working through Lisa Cron’s book, Story Genius. She posits that great story comes from the journey, the change and the growth of the protagonist. But Arrival has taught me that a great story is not the one that the author writes on the page, but in the dots that the reader puts together themselves.
Give the reader enough information—in the form of scenes—and allow them to connect it into a cohesive story. What the reader will put together will be so much more meaningful, more powerful, than anything the author could have written.
Yes, as I’ve written before, writers can change the minds of their readers by emotionally involving the reader in a story, but it is so much more powerful and life-altering is it when the reader comes up with the meaning themselves. It’s doing, not watching that allows us to learn. It’s figuring out the meaning, not someone telling it to us that gives it power and significance. It’s the negative space, what is not told or shown, where the strength in good story telling lies.
Have you seen Arrival? What did you think? Have you read any books that had negative story telling in that way? What did you think?
My author friend, Terry Spear, challenged me to write a short, very short story inspired by a holiday picture of my choosing for her blog . I’m also sharing the wee tale here. If you’ve read Just Wait For Me from my Highland Gardens series, you met a young lad named Tevin in the epilogue. He appears again in the upcoming novella, Just Within a Highland Mist, coming Winter 2017.
In A Red Mug and a Christmas Kiss, this very short holiday tale, Tevin is all grown up and working as a Santa’s helper for the holidays at Foxgloves, the garden center owned by his mother, Jillian, and her two partners…
A Red Mug and a Christmas Kiss
by Dawn Marie Hamilton
Melinda had always wanted to be a Santa’s helper. At twenty-five, it seemed like a silly childhood dream.
Snowflakes danced on the breeze, landing on her cheeks and the tip of her nose. She shivered and sipped from the red ceramic mug she’d just purchased at the garden center’s gift shop along with hot cider. The owners of Foxgloves were Scottish and all the greenery was decorated with tartan ribbon and bows.
Wandering past rows of Christmas trees, the sharp scent of fir, along with apple and cinnamon from the cider, reminded her of Christmases long past. She missed her family. Felt alone in this new mountain town.
In the center of the display garden, a Christmas village had been erected. Young men, dressed in kilts and tunics and wearing elf hats, used hand puppets to entertain children waiting their turn to sit on Santa’s lap and give the white-bearded man their Christmas wish lists.
Melinda couldn’t help but ogle the guys’ muscular legs exposed to the chilly air. She’d be covered in goose bumps if she—
“Lass, would you be so kind as to help me with a medieval skit?”
She lifted her gaze from a firm pair of masculine legs, up a tight body, to very kissable lips that broadened into a grin. Blue eyes glinted with humor. Heat burned her cheeks. And it wasn’t from the steam rising from the red mug.
“Aren’t you cold?” she blurted. “I mean, of course, I’d be happy to help.” Gosh. She sounded silly.
“My name is Tevin,” he said.
“Mine is Melinda.”
He handed her a puppet depicting a faerie princess and another a fair maiden and introduced her to the crowd as Santa’s Helper Melinda. She then joined him in an improvised skit where the faerie princess bestowed magic powers upon a warrior who slayed a dragon and won the hand of the fair maiden.
The children clapped.
“That was fun,” she said as they walked away from the Christmas village to a secluded picnic table.
“It was.” He pulled a flask out of his sporran. “I’m finished for the night. Would you care for some whisky?”
He poured a small measure of the amber liquid into the red mug and handed it over. She sipped the drink and smiled. How could she let him know of her interest in him without feeling a fool?
Tevin took the mug from her hand and drank from the spot her lips had touched. “I like the taste of your lips. May I?”
The intent glowing in his eyes near to burned her. Her stomach shimmied. Still, she nodded.
His arm encircled her waist; drew her close. The touch of his lips against hers was soft. Gentle. Stole her breath. Became demanding. She dropped the empty red mug into the snow and wrapped her arms around his neck, surrendering to the magic of his Christmas kiss.
While you are reading this, I am in London going to the Christmas markets and museums. Before I got on the plane however, I made sure to finish my next lycan book and get it put up for preorder. I know you’ve been waiting for Gwen Quiet Thunder’s story and here it is. I hope you fall in love with this couple like I did.
Available for Pre-Order Now!
Coming December 26, 2016
Book Twelve of the Siberian Volkov Pack Romance Series
Cross-Over to Shadow Walker Romance Series.
Gwen Quiet Thunder has fought against her Lycan roots her whole life. She didn’t want anything to do with the wolf inside her and couldn’t fathom finding a mate in a Lycan. She thought all Lycan men were like the boy who terrorized her while growing up, mean, cruel, and aggressive. So when the mating bond snaps into place with her future brother-in-law, there’s only one thing to do. Run.
Mischa Sokolov, Siberian Lycan is thrilled to find his future sister-in-law is also his mate. She may be having some problems accepting the inevitable, but he never expected her to run and put an ocean between them. The more he tries to connect with her, the more she pushes him away. But Lycans only get one heartmate and mate for life. He’s going to have to prove to Gwen that she can trust him with her heart or lose the one woman meant to be his.
I recently celebrated another birthday, and I had to sit back and take stock of my life. Time is fleeting, and as I get closer to being able to collect medicare and social security, I wonder if my path as a writer has been worth it.
I love to write, but is it all it can be? Finding readers is hard, and all I can do is produce an enjoyable product, release it, and hope for the best. SPARK and SMOKE, released this year, are two full-length books in my Clan of Dragons series, and the third book will be released early next year.
I submitted SPARK into the RITA awards, the Oscar for writers, hosted every year by Romance Writers of America. I plan to submit SMOKE into the PRISM awards, a similar contest for paranormal writers.
On December 5th I shall release a boxed set…a renewal, of sorts, of three of my time travel adventures, along with my award-winning novella. Until then, the boxed set is available for pre-order. Releasing four older books in an attractively-priced boxed set gives me time to concentrate on creating new adventures for my readers.