HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It's "What We’re Writing" week! And I am coming around the writing corner (crossing fingers), to figuring out the end of WHAT YOU SEE. Since I don’t use an outline, I won't know what happens until it happens. I mean, until I write it. Scary! And exciting.
And I have come to a revelation about endings.
Were you--like me--one of those people in high school who loved taking standardized tests? Oh, I actually looked forward to it. And I did really well on one called the Miller Analogies test. Remember? It was to see if you could understand how one thing related to another. Word One is to Word Two as Word Three is to Word Four.
By analyzing the relationship of word three to word four, you have to figure out which of the multiple choice words was had the same relationship to the first word.
Puppy is to _____ as Kitten is to Cat.
(I will pause, now, while you think about this. But you probably don’t need the multiple choice answers to figure it out. And yeah, you know the answer they want.)
But! A writer--even if you choose the "correct" answer-- might think of other things. And my theory is—that’s what makes writers (and readers!) different. And special. And able to make stuff up.
For instance. What if Cat is a person? You could then think of a person who had a little dog, and it would be correct to say: Puppy is to Mary as Kitten is to Cat.
What if Puppy is a nickname? And that’s what you call your husband? And you also call your grownup cat “Kitten?” So, Husband could also be right.
And what if they meant—a big wild cat, like a lion? A wolf is kind of a big wild dog. So if you look at it that way, Wolf is right.
You could think about syllables, and number of letters, and well, what else?
|An ARC of TBT to one lucky commenter!|
And that’s what gave me goose bumps when I figured out the ending of TRUTH BE TOLD. I sat at my computer, staring at the screen, thinking: What would someone really do here? What would happen next?
And most important: Why.
And that is when an author has to start thinking about relationships. What one person means to the other, what one person thinks about the other—and how you could make those puzzle pieces of motivation go together in ingenious and surprising ways.
How does one thing relate to the other in an unexpected way? Not the first answer on the Miller Analogies test, but the most interesting one?
(Sidebar: Oh. I just remembered this. Donald Maass told me once that given the analogies test, children matched Monkey with “Banana,” while adults matched monkey with “chimpanzee.” Adults chose what the subject was. Kids chose what the subject wanted. That, he said, proves kids are storytellers!)
Anyway. When I figured out the end of TRUTH BE TOLD (I will not tell you here, of course), I will confess I was by myself in my study, and I stood up, and applauded.
And I am hoping that happens with WHAT YOU SEE. And you know, um, soon.
Here’s a truly funny thing. When I was looking up examples of the Miller Analogies, here’s (hilariously) one of the first ones Google provided.
2. DIVIDEND : STOCKHOLDER :: (____) : AUTHOR
Of course, now we know, the answer is (say it with me) ALL OF THE ABOVE. Because it all depends on our imagination.
And finally, good news about endings:
TRUTH BE TOLD just got a starred review from Library Journal—and part of the rave says: “Packs a powerful punch...drop everything and binge-read until the mind-boggling conclusion.”
Reds, were you good at tests? Did you like them? And what’s your answer to the puppy question? An arc of TRUTH BE TOLD to one lucky test-taker!
*******Oh, and PS! YOU ARE INVITED to the TRUTH BE TOLD launch party! October 7 at Brookline (MA) Booksmith. I will mail you an invitation if you ask in the comments!)