Thursday, July 14, 2011

Writing to the Punchline (Bonuses: Horror and Dialect!)

The thing had eyes now, one in its forehead and one in its cheek, each formed by a dull silver Pennsylvania shilling and each spluttering and emitting a foul yellow smoke as the silver burned its way into the clay flesh.  Cal saw his own blood on its fingers and shuddered at the nearness of his escape.  The not-a-man reared back, clawing and slapping at its own head, and tumbled away down the hill.
Calvin swallowed cold night air into his chest and dragged himself to his feet.  The second not-a-man, recovered from tripping over his pack, hesitated, and gave Cal the time he needed to scrounge another shilling from his purse and raise it over his head like a weapon.
“Git back, you… thing!” he choked out.  He felt, more than saw, Sarah reach his side, and he was foolishly proud.
“Cal, what did you do?” she panted.
His vision firmed up and he stepped forward, threatening with his shilling.  The wounded not-a-man disappeared into the trees, still bellowing in pain and scratching at its own head, and its companion hissed and then retreated, disappearing into the shadow.
             Calvin grinned weakly and checked his purse.  “Don’t be too vexed with me, dear,” he told her, “I jest spent half our savings.”

*   *   *

The above is an excerpt from Witchy Eye.  Sarah and Calvin Calhoun are attacked by dark creatures as they try to escape Calhoun Mountain.  On the verge of defeat, Cal discovers that the monsters are vulnerable to silver, and he fights them off with a handful of money.

In any writing, it's important to write to the punchline.  You see this especially in really efficient forms of writing, e.g., songs, poems, movie scripts and jokes.  What I mean is this: you want the reader to stay with you all the way to the end, so you have to make the very last word matter.  You have to organize your joke (story segment) so that the punchline (key sentence, cliffhanger, hook) is last and the last component of the punchline is something the reader wants and needs.

No comments:

Post a Comment