Friday, November 18, 2016

A Lesson in Finesse

Rinee Newburgh and Lori Bridgeport are mind writers, capable of the amazing feat of transferring the mind from a dying body to a young, healthy, blemish-free clone. Then the clone comes to life and goes about its business as if the mind's owner had never been sick.

Great way for the ultra-rich and political elite to live forever.

Mind writers live in a beautiful environment, pay for nothing, and spend their lives being educated in medicine, history, political science, and who knows what else. If I remember correctly, they're all orphans. And---spoiler alert---they're all going to die.

But the authors of Mind Writer don't tell you that for quite some time.

I love the opening chapters of this book because they're so beautifully finessed. Advanced authors of thrillers, suspense, mystery, most any genre in which surprise is an element use finesse to guide their readers to conclusions. This adds to the readers' experience because it engages the mind more than novels in which the author spells out everything. Advanced authorship challenges the reader to engage with the story. It leaves breadcrumbs on treacherous ground for the reader to follow to the adventure the author has created. And every breadcrumb trail comes with rewards.

How does the author do this? The first part of the answer is easy: He writes to his smartest reader. To the one who wouldn't need explanation of clues on the breadcrumb trail and would probably resent it if the author did explain. This is part of the RUE rule: Resist the Urge to Explain. Your beta readers can let you know if you're being too vague. Meanwhile, write to those who can figure out what you're doing without being told.

Part two of the answer to how an author writes with finesse is more personalized to each story: You have to bake the bread from which the crumb trail is derived. The surprise itself is the loaf, so what's your surprise?

In the opening chapters of Mind Writer, the surprise is that the mind writers die. This isn't the overarching mystery, just the early fact of the novel that sets the tone, illustrates the backstory, and launches the reader into the depths of the plot.

Once you know this---once you've baked your loaf---what are the crumbs you leave behind for your reader? Here are Mike and Lisa's crumbs:


  • Mind writers are discouraged from becoming too close friends with each other.
  • Facility supervisors and personnel are always distant and impersonal.
  • The man in charge is named Malotetnev. 
  • The mind writer's goal is to finally put all their training into practice. To hear their name called, to head to the medical facility, and to be put to work.
  • Once they're called, they finally graduate and leave the facility for Paradise Prime.
  • Graduates never come back or contact anyone within the facility. 


If I hadn't already told you that mind writers die early in the story, you might look at all these crumbs and suspect that they do, but you wouldn't know for certain until the authors revealed it to you. You'd have it as a niggling idea, but you wouldn't know for sure.

And you certainly wouldn't know why, because you're not quite clear what a mind writer is, until Lori gets called down, and you get to see her at work.

Once she sees what she is to do, her mission becomes distasteful for her. She must be threatened before she'll perform the service required, but the promise of Paradise Prime is always in the back of her mind.

She puts one bare hand on an older man and the other on a waxen clone, and within seconds, all the memories and knowledge the elder possessed mingled with her own mind before flowing through to the clone.

Once the procedure is complete, uniformed men come to escort Lori to the transport which will take her to Paradise Prime. As she goes---with each guard clamping a hand on her elbows and hauling her away---no one looks at her. The guards don't smile at her. No one is encouraging or congratulatory or remotely happy for her.

By now, we're pretty sure she's going to die, but we don't get our suspicions confirmed until later.

We also don't have a clear idea as to why she must die. I've left enough breadcrumbs for you to figure it out, so I won't tell you here. But this is what finesse entails---clues rather than outright disclosure. Illustration rather than information. Implied instead of expressed. And once you follow the breadcrumb trail that finesse leaves behind, you're rewarded with having your suspicions confirmed or being utterly surprised. Either way, you as a reader are hooked.

Using finesse always enhances the readers' experience.
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