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Friday, November 6, 2009

The Tornado Effect

Growing up in Oklahoma and Kansas allowed me to witness the effect tornadoes have first hand. Whether it passes over you, touches down briefly, or barrels through relentlessly, it has an impact on every single person who experiences it. In The Fire In Fiction, Donald Maass, talks about the importance of 'big' events in a novel. He indicates that many of the manuscripts he's read over the years lack a big event. So, what makes for a big event? Well, Maass describes it as one that causes a tornado effect. A big event is one that impacts multiple characters like a tornado affects many residents of the town it plows through. To make a big event meaningful, though, the author must portray the changes it causes in everyone in its path. Do you have a big event in your novel? Have you portrayed its effect on everyone involved? As you ponder that, go buy the book, and have a great weekend!

57 comments:

Diane said...

Those are some su-weet shoes! In real life I've had many a tornado effect and it is painful and does destroy many lives. :O(

Mary said...

That is an awesome heel on those shoes. Perfect for grinding into the hearts of those it encounters. Great advice again. A big event - I think I have one - I'll keep it in mind to make sure I show how it touches everyones lives. Great post - good advice - I think I need to buy the book.

Matthew Delman said...

I'm lucky in that my "tornado effects" are almost always large-scale battles that upend everything in the setting, so it's easy to say that yes my stories do have that.

That being said, there might be something to having a "big" event that doesn't involve killing or maiming a whole mess of people. Something to think about anyway.

Kristi Faith said...

Susan, as always, great post :)
I thought I had a big event, all mapped out and ready to write later....then as I was writing yesterday an unexpected big event came to light. So, this post comes at a perfect time so I can look at that, or add some more precious words. LOL :)

Regina Quentin said...

I really am going to try to order that book this weekend. I've enjoyed all your notes on it. I had an event in my wip that I thought was "big", but upon reading this I realize it doesn't have the impact it probably should.

AudreyO said...

I love to read. In thinking about the books I personally enjoy, while there is often a big event, I really prefer books with fewer characters. I get too confused reading books with lots and lots of characters.

I'm reading a book now, it's EXCELLENT and there are really only 3 characters. Huge event, affected all 3 of them but I can keep up and I really feel as if I know all 3 of these people through the authors words.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Yes, I do! It's big and I love it so much! Have a great weekend!

By the way, I left a little something for you over at my blog! :0)

Robyn Campbell said...

I have this one covered. Whew.

I am grateful for you Susan. You have helped a lot of folks by reading this book and then posting about it. Thanks!

My son's heart is A-OKAY! I was really sweating that. But now more tests on his brain. Yikes!

Thank you for asking. :)

Melanie's Randomness said...

You have tornadoes!!! Oh gracious me. Please be careful!! I got a Borders coupon so I think I'm going to go pick up this book. He's absolutely right about the big event. I'll admit I'm a picky reader because if there is no big event or it just goes on & on without any turns or twists I lose interest. I've been trying to work on the big event that changed the world in my book that is original. Great post!! Have a good weekend!! =)

Tamika: said...

I love the shoes! You still have my address I hope- send them my way.

Great analogy. There is one big tornano in my MS that really is the heart of the novel.

Melanie's Randomness said...

P.S. Love that shoe picture. I could totally use a pair like that. =P

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Working on doing that w/out junking up or complicating my POV too much. I'll be curious to see what my crit. partners say...in a few months.
~ Wendy

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL Killer heels!

In my WiP, the big event that effects everyone is that a young man goes missing. In searching for him, the heroine learns how many other lives he changed.

Maybe in my revisions I can make his effect on everyone he meets more profound. I'll have all November to think about it, at least. Thanks for another thought provoking post!

Angie Muresan said...

Have yourself a lovely weekend, Susan. Hope the weather cooperates so you can enjoy it.

Patti said...

I think I have a couple big events. I'll be picking up that book.

Julie Dao said...

Hot shoes! I do have a big event in my novel but it happened long before the novel begins. Nevertheless it does affect each and every single character in the story. :)

L. T. Host said...

I never cease to be amazed at how you find a totally appropriate pair of shoes for every post. Wow.

Interesting point, and I do believe my MS does that, but I'll have to go back and make sure, as usual!

Lynnette Labelle said...

I still have to finish reading his Breakout Novel. Just don't have a lot of time for reading theses days. ;) Have you read this one? I've often wondered how the two compared...

Lynnette Labelle
http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

Corey Schwartz said...

Oh, terrific analogy. Love this post!

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

You've already gotten me to buy the book. :)

And hopefully my events are big enough. Can we call them something else though? Tornadoes are a huge phobia of mind (a valid one too, living in Dallas).

Natalie Murphy said...

Great post! (Love the shoe).

Btw, I gave you an award on my blog =]

Tara said...

Thanks for sharing from the book. I do have a tornado event, and I love how it turned out. Have a wonderful weekend.

Kathy said...

That's interesting. I think a big event is a good idea but I've got to admit most books I've read lately don't have one.

The Wizard of Oz certainly has a tornado effect!

Jill Kemerer said...

I'm enjoying the tips! Thanks for sharing!

Jody Hedlund said...

I still need to get my copy of that book! Thanks for sharing some great points from it this week!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Killer stiletto!

The book I'm working on has several big events, but I need to work more on the heart, the motivations, I think.

Lily Robinson said...

I know... I haven't bought the book yet. I'm all too familiar with tornadoes. (A scar on my head proves it.) I thank you for this tip. I do have a big event near the end. I hadn't thought about how some of the other character's would be affected.

Nancy said...

My book has one big event (happening) and one tornado type event that touches the characters.

Paul said...

That is a great analogy. I'm going to take a look at what I'm working on with that in mind. Thanks!

Shelli said...

do i have a tornado AKA whirlwind of conflict in my book. heck yah!

Karen said...

Cool. I do have a big event in my novel. I just hadn't thought of it in that way. And now that I am, I can pay more attention to bringing out the impact it has on each character and on their relationships.

Stephanie L. McGee said...

I want those shoes.

I have too many big events in my novel, I think. Sigh. Readers will have to help me with that one. But I plan on two rounds of revisions/edits before anyone's eyes but my own see my manuscript.

~Ellie Kings~ said...

I most definitely have a tornado brewing in my novel. Trying to work out the details of how to show its effect on everyone involved. As always, thanks for the advice! Have a great one Susan!

staceyjwarner said...

I have series of little tornadoes that end in one big tornado at the end...LOL! Does that count?

much love

Cindy said...

That's a tough question. I suppose the tornado effect seems major in my book not because it's a huge event but just because it does reach out and spread to more than one character. I am going to have to work hard when I reach that point to truly show its effects on each character.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Where do you find all these perfect shoes for your posts. I never, it's just amazing.

In my last novel the biggest tornado was the death of one of the characters and how it affected the whole cast. But I need to think more on tornadoes for my wip for nano. Thanks for the idea.

Tea With Tiffany said...

Short and powerful post.

K. M. Walton said...

Guess what? I bought it as a bday treat to me & it should be here by Monday! Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Heather Sunseri said...

I definitely need that book. I've enjoyed your advice this week.

#167 Dad said...

Those are the coolest shoes I've ever seen. Don't get me wrong, I still like football and other manly endeavors.

Life gives us our fair share of tornadoes to for our stories, doesn't it?

Erica said...

I'm actually not sure if I have a tornado effect or not? I have some revelations, but lack that big event... I think, maybe the big event can be a subtle one? I don't know. I'll look for it in there though!

Gotta get that book :)

Those shoes are totally cool.

Stephanie Thornton said...

That heel is totally awesome!

I hadn't thought about how the tornado needs to affect every character. I have a couple major ones in my book, but when I go back and revise (again!) I'm going to keep my eyes out for that. Thanks for the tip!

Cassandra Frear said...

Interesting idea. Reminds of a Bible verse about sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind. Which could actually be another way to use the idea. One seemingly small choice IS the cataclysmic event, the tornado, but no one realizes it until later.

Stephanie Faris said...

Those are some perfect shoes for this blog. Very unique! If I could wear high heels without falling on my face, I'd have to get some of those, although I'm sure they're $500 or more.

I don't know that I've ever had a "tornado" event in any of my novels...but I write young adult. I always have that moment where everything comes to a head (the big dark moment) and then it all resolves...I don't think that counts, though.

Faith said...

I had a nightmare last night about tornadoes... NOT FUN. :(

I think one of the novels I've written has a "tornado event"... maybe another one, but I'm not quite sure. Dangit! Seriously, going to buy this book. Lol.

Veronica Barton-Dean said...

Susan...I grew up in tornado alley as well. We only left it recently for Omaha which isn't too far from it. This was a great post and really got me thinking about my latest project's tornadic event and how it applies to all the characters not just the main one.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Thanks! Another element to think about - now I just need to get back to my revisions and apply all of this new knowledge...

Terresa said...

I'll check that book out. Great concept. Never witnessed a tornado first hand, but plenty of flash floods living in the high desert.

Carolyn V. said...

Ooo! I do! And I hope is it a huge tornado! =)

Jessie Oliveros said...

I lived in Leavenworth County last year and was right in tornado alley. Oh yes, those Kansas tornados. We didn't even have a basement in our rented duplex and had to hide in the shower. Anyway, I'm not sure what my "tornado" is. Must think about it.

Tabitha Bird said...

Yeah, I think I might buy this book. It sounds like a great reference. Thanks for the post :)

Anissa said...

Love the recaps. Makes me feel like I need to go read the book again. Have a great weekend!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Once a tornado passed over a house I lived in in South Louisiana - the entire house shook, the windows rattled, it was terrifying! luckily it didn't touch down.....

I do have 'big' events - in character-driven novels such as mine, they aren't like HUGE BIG BANG POW events, but instead something that causes emotional BIG BANG POW!

Amy Tate said...

Susan, one of these days you'll have to do a behind the scenes post about how you keep coming up with these incredible pictures! You truly have a gift, girl!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Does he say where this tornado should take place? The beginning? Throughout the entire book.

Guess I need to go buy it - add to my Donald Maass collection. He is good.

Laura Martone said...

Nope, no tornado effects... unless you count my married protag's teenage daughter finding a stash of love letters from her mother's longtime lover. Sometimes, I don't think ol' Mr. Maass is writing for lit fiction writers like me. :-(

Dawn Simon said...

I'm currently rewriting my climax to make it bigger. I love the idea of a tornado effect!