The Point of Interest is the ‘edge of a seat’, the energy that starts to ‘turn the page’ before the last sentence of the one being read is complete, it’s the ‘Shhhh’ when an engrossed member of the audience doesn’t want to be distracted by someone talking in a theater. If as the writer you create enough points of interest then together they define a wave. If we are good at what we write then the reader becomes the surfer catching the edge of that wave, constantly being supported and moved along in perfect balance along the leading edge, as the plot roils below them. At that moment the surfer, as well as the reader, is totally involved, totally focused on continuing the ride for as long as they can, totally attuned to the story. One of my observations on art, literature, film and all things theatrical, is that they play out in the extreme reaches of reality and human existence.
A story that does not approach the outer edge of a human situation holds less drama. (because we surf at the edge of the wave) There is no drama in washing socks, but there is drama in washing the socks on Mars in a sonic washing machine that’s powered by a thermonuclear reactor – because we’ve taken a common, everyday chore and we’ve pushed it to an extreme. To hold an audience, reader or listener at the point of Interest we must strive to drive all characters, all plot lines all narrative to approach the extremes of the human condition or extremes in behavioral patterns.
So when you’re looking for that MacGuffin, when you’re looking for that thing that the story seems to be about but isn’t, it’s very tempting to go to an extreme, somewhere outside the norm that lies just beyond what reasonable people would think of, consider or accept. It’s in this area where you get to write the rules, it’s in this area where you get to bring the readers to a place where they haven’t been before. Is that the primary part of any story? Maybe not the whole story, but it’s certainly one of the guardrails of the plot. That unchartered territory can be internal within a character, in their deepest darkest recesses or external to the character, where the world or environment forces dramatic action.
So in my fourth book, I have a plot that deals with an aspect of human trafficking. However, the notion of an entire underground economy, complete with an international infrastructure, designed to force people into indentured servitude, slavery or out and out sexual exploitation is already an extreme place to write about, but a general awareness of this horrible endeavor is out there and somewhat known in our culture. Therefore, going back to my rule, I’ve picked up on a particular part of human trafficking, which is not pretty much on anybody’s radar. It is the extreme of the extreme, an aspect not generally known. The question is: Is it too far? Is it so far out there as to be beyond the willing suspension of belief? Will it cause my reader to wipeout and lose the edge of the wave?
That’s a big challenge that I’m struggling with right now in book four, The Devil’s Quota…