Surfing the Point of Interest

Avitabile - Surfing the point of interestThe 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

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Don’t Forget to Wash Your Hands

“It looks like it’s shaping up to be a bad flu season, but only time will tell.”

– Dr. Thomas Frieden, National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Tom Avitabile  |  The Hammer of GodIn The Hammer of God, the inciting incident of the book is a flu vaccine shortage which is caused by nefarious forces overseas, resulting in half the number of vaccinations necessary to guard the public.

That is step one of a two-step biological attack; take away the first line of defense – which would be the flu vaccine. Then the second part of the attack was to unleash a really nasty airborne bug on the public. So the bad guys weren’t contaminating the flu vaccine to be their vehicle to do harm. They contaminated the supply to take it off the market.

This created a situation, in my book, where during the onset of the attack, people had symptoms that mimicked the flu – and no one suspects anything is awry. The airborne bug’s dormant stage lasts five to six days, taking the world by surprise when the infected take an extreme turn for the worse and people start to die.

It seems like we should be very cognizant of foreign suppliers producing this and other vaccines because their production and distribution lines might be interrupted more easily.

Of course, this being a book about my hero, he thwarts the attack. The mastermind is arrested and becomes a bargaining chip in the escalated terror plot to follow. But the groundwork is there in the story; this is a weak pressure point in the threat matrix aimed at this country.

I am confident in the safeguards that had somebody tried to manipulate or add something nasty to the flu vaccine, it would set off alarm bells and triggers. The far greater insidious plot device is simply to render us unprotected and willing to accept high numbers of infections as the new normal – when in fact it’s anything but. It is the start of an attack.

Remember: wash your hand often.

Blogscript

ABC has decided to cancel my absolute, all-time favorite show: The Last Resort.

When you read The God Particle you’ll see one of my main characters is the USS Tom Avitabile | The God ParticleNebraska – a trillion dollar missile boat (luckily on our side). That’s why I am so distraught over the cancelling of this series, whose main star is the USS Colorado, the sister ship of the Nebraska.

Besides I looove the dialogue…to the point where I say “Damn, I wish I would have written that!”

Please take a moment and email ABC. Tell them to keep the Last Resort afloat.