Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cheating

Many years ago, I read Stephen King's Misery. I would not recommend this book if you do not want horrific images involving rats forever imprinted on your brain. If you enjoy that sort of thing, by all means, have at it.

My best memory from the book involves the idea of cheating. Allow me to set the scene.

The hero in the book is a writer of romance novels about a character named Misery. He has become famous and wealthy at her expense. Growing weary of her and wanting new vistas to explore, the author kills her at the end of what is to be her last book. Much like Arthur Conan Doyle did to Sherlock Holmes. Misery's many fans are outraged, but he doesn't care.

The hero of the book is then involved in a car accident and wakes to find himself a severely injured prisoner in the home of his biggest, and unfortunately, craziest fan. I believe her name is Annie.

Annie recognized him. She rescued him from the wreckage of his car, hid the car wreck, and took him home to nurse him to health. She also wants him to resurrect Misery.

Realizing the woman is insane, he decides, for the sake of his own life, to humor her. He uses the infamous "it was all a dream" to bring Misery back.

Annie will have none of it. "That's cheating," she explains (or something to that effect. This was years ago for me, remember). So the author has to come up with a realistic way to bring Misery back to life. The story progresses from there.

Cheating in writing is a common concept.

A reader knows she has been cheated when the hero solves a problem too quickly or easily. This results in reader frustration, book destruction, and, if you're lucky, angry emails to the author.

An author knows she has cheated when she did not lay awake at four A.M. wondering how her hero will solve his problem.

I am often awake at four A.M. cleaning up hairballs, so working out plot complications is not that far out of my way. It is the price I pay for writing fiction. And having cats.

Not cheating makes for better stories. It makes the reader love you. It makes the reader trust you as an author.

A worker is worth his wages. Work hard. The wages will come.

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