The Moment of Truth

I love plots.

In my day-to-day life, give me a straightforward existence. In my stories I want meaty, complex, intertwining puzzle pieces that build towards a breath-taking reveal.

The problem is that there are very few reveals that can support the strength of the plotting that came before them.

When I reach the part of the story that promises to explain all that has come before, my nervousness starts to ratchet upwards. I so badly want to be dazed and awed, but often I’m just left dazed and feeling vaguely cheated.

I’ve thought about this, as someone who finds joy in fully immersing myself in the worlds I am privileged to visit.

Surely a lackluster solution can’t take away the hours of enjoyment I’ve spent tracing the threads that lead to this climax?

And yet…

“The moment of truth” is seen as a groan-worthy cliche, but I think it captures the heart of the problem arising from poor plot solutions.

As readers, we work hard to build on the skeleton provided by a writer. With our own lives, our own thoughts, our own dreams and nightmares, we flesh out the words on the page into a living universe that we absorb as we read.

No writer, no matter how great or talented, is going to be able to cover all of those little universes contained in the minds of thousands of readers. Just like great horror suggests rather than shows outright, allowing you to build your own nightmares, great puzzles use your own assumptions against you. Great plots expect you to build your own worlds and your own interpretations of the actions and both incorporate and play against those visions in your head.

Here’s the problem.

The solution ends those games.

The solution is where we are finally able to see the writer’s truth of the heart of the story.

There are few writers whose truths can stand against a thousand fleshed and coloured worlds.

The stories whose solutions I have loved understand this and their truths are built into the marrow of the worlds they create. The great solutions are those that respect the visions of the readers because their core is at the base of the worlds they have built.

No matter how many disappointing endings I read, I am still excited to see stories brave enough to attempt difficult and intricate complications.

I only hope as I turn the page that they have given me the bones I need to build a compatible world.

IMG_1856What we build with should be able to withstand the storm of interpretation

I love plot and how much of its interpretation is a complicated dance between the reader and the writer.


My Grand Reveal still has four books to go. If you’d like to see my own building bones, my fantasy novel,  The Guests of Honor, is available here.

3 thoughts on “The Moment of Truth

  1. I think it’s similar to cooking. You know when you’ve spent hours cooking up an incredible dish, each ingredient has filled all your senses, and when it comes time to eat the meal it’s so so. Everyone else loves it, but because you experienced all the tricks and bits and piece that went into the creation, there was no surprise left for you. Whenever my husband cooks it always taste better than anything I make, and it’s not because he is a good cook (quite the opposite), it’s just that I didn’t do any prep work and my taste buds got to experience the dish from the first bite. Our writing is the same. There are no surprises for the creator.

    • I think that it is possible to become too close a story, much like hours spent in the kitchen normalizes the flavour of the food. At that point, it becomes important to get fresh eyes from either yourself or someone you trust to make sure that everything is on track!

      I’d argue though, that even if they aren’t the stories you’ve written, that the best plot solutions aren’t huge surprises, because, once you think about them, they seem inevitable consequences of the way the story was set up and executed. While the movie “Memento” has its problems, I’ve always admired the way it made its conclusion both surprising and inevitable. I actually laughed out loud when the last section of the movie appeared because it was a perfect moment of all the puzzle pieces sliding exactly into place.

      I don’t know if I could, or would want, to pull that kind of plot off with every story, but it’s certainly something I think about as I write.

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