Monday, July 30, 2012

Reflective Moments

I loved that line Susanna shared in the previous post, didn’t you? It’s not just what it tells you about the heroine directly, but what’s implied by what’s not said, too. It has me rubbing my hands with glee about how she’ll use the things she has already learned… and how she’ll learn the things she has not yet been taught.

When I was thinking about writing this post yesterday, I thought I’d be talking about short stories I’m mulling over (and not writing. Hmmm. Please feel free to give me a kick up the butt for that one…) or further thoughts of the Conference. That all changed when I rummaged in the book heap (and I do mean heap, not pile, or stack, or anything so neat!) beside my bed and happened to pick up To The Hilt by Dick Francis.

Dick Francis was one of the authors (along with Desmond Bagley, Mary Stewart, Alistair MacLean and Georgette Heyer) I picked up when I became bored with Famous Five, there not being much in the way of Young Adult books when I was chewing my way through the stories of the world as a young bookworm. To The Hilt is one I’ve ready many times.

At one point, the hero is tortured for information. It’s information that won’t threaten anyone’s life. If he keeps it safe, it will benefit one of his enemies as much as his friends. He will gain nothing personally from keeping the information safe. More than that, he’s seen the corpse of the last man they tortured in this way. He decides, rationally, to give up the information.

But he doesn’t. He finds, at the sticking point, he can’t. So he suffers for it.

So far so usual. The hero, implacable, unbreakable, enduring.

But then the story delivers something you’re not expecting. With many of the external and internal plot lines still to be finally resolved, the hero, surviving the slow and painful healing process, quite deliberately goes out in the night to a place that’s special to him, and sits for hours thinking about what stopped him giving up the information. He has to face up to the fact that, to him, what stopped him was a character flaw, a weakness, not a strength. And it’s a weakness he’s going to have to reconcile himself to if he wants to go forward in his life.

Action –orientated reads don’t often deliver that kind of reflective moment in the last few chapters. Usually we aim to keep our readers on the edge of their seats, we want to rush them, breathless, to a satisfying conclusion. But somehow, that ‘still, small voice’ moment, that focus on the lessons that character had to learn, gives so much more emphasis to the action, and depth to the learning.

(I think Julie's stuck in the land of no-internet, so I thought I'd go ahead and post my contribution)


  1. I loved this post...I'm swamped in rewriting and it's here that I try and twist things and it's moments like you mentioned - the opposite of what you expect that capture me in books and keep me thinking

  2. I agree - I think it's always good to try and surprise the reader in one way or another, that's what makes a book stand out from all the others!