Monday, October 26, 2009

True to life?

Two novels I've read this month - Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children and David Lodge's Deaf Sentence - appear to be building towards unpleasant or even horrific climaxes for the lead characters, but then they kind of trail away instead. I half-wanted the worst to happen, though also finding the prospect painful. Traditional plot structuring would have suggested ending with explosions rather than damp firecrackers (though Messud's 9/11 ending is hardly comforting). I suppose they picked the quieter endings in order to avoid formulaic predictability (like when showing the gun in Act 2 means that someone's going to use it in Act 3). But there's nothing wrong with earning a dramatic payoff so long as you can keep it fresh and surprising.

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