One of my favorite anecdotes from the Star Wars mother lode involves Harrison Ford, George Lucas, and the script for Episode IV: A New Hope. I adore George Lucas, I would love to have his as my uncle—or sugar daddy—but homeboy has been known to churn out a few clunky dialogues here and there.
As the story went, one day, Harrison Ford, fed up with his lines, went up to George Lucas, whom he’d known since American Graffiti, and said, “You can type this @#$%, George, but you can’t say it.”
Sometimes, when I read a book, I have a similar reaction: you can type this @#$%, but you can’t make me believe it. A lot of times, books that elicit such a reaction from me have violated a fundamental tenet of Accelerated Karma, namely, you can accelerate it, but you can’t make it materialize out of nothing.
Take romances, for example. One of the most frequently logged—and grievous—complaints against an unsatisfying book is that the reader doesn’t buy the Happily Ever After, because for the sake of conflict/plot/sexual tension/length the protagonists quarrel like harpies/keep secrets from each other and never communicate/think of each other only in hate/lust dichotomies/so on and so forth for 95% of the book. And then, all of a sudden, on the penultimate page, the hero and the heroine are deeply in love and deeply committed and deeply desirous of sharing a Life Together.
Remember the Chinese saying “Plant squash, harvest squash; plant peas, harvest peas?” A romance writer cannot plant nothing but peas and suddenly show her readers bushels and bushels of squash. The romance gods have gifted us with a Wonder Squash that can go from seed to fruit in all of one week. But we’ve still got to plow the field, plant the seed, and nurture it with water and fertile soil and plenty of sunshine, and show the readers how this one tiny seed grows into a beautiful, bountiful harvest.
I write mostly relationship-heavy books. But these are not the only kinds of books that suffer from the Sudden Squash Syndrome. In more plot-heavy books the Sudden Squash Syndrome is known by its Latin name Deus Ex Machina, whereupon a god previous unknown to the universe of the story appears just as all plot threads seem headed for implosion, rains down squash, and voila, all problems solved.
To which I can only say, dear fellow scribes, plant your squash early and plant them often! Cuz otherwise, karma is a lady dog.
Hiatus alert: I know, I know, I just came back. And it’s such a pleasure and a privilege to have readers, but I would have to give up blogging for a couple of months. I’ve four classes this summer, major revisions, and a mid-July deadline for those revisions. I’ll be back again as soon as the revisions are done.