On one of my many forays into Google to research something (yeah, right) for the writing I’m attempting to jump-start, I came across this little description of one of the master storytellers. I can’t say whether she was based on a real person, or whether she was a character herself (which makes it even MORE interesting). But the lady’s storytelling methods are right on the mark.
This, from Sir Richard Burton’s translation of “One Thousand and One Nights”:
”…Against her father’s wishes, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the King. Once in the King’s chambers, Scheherazade asked if she might bid one last farewell to her beloved sister, Dinazade, who had secretly been prepared to ask Scheherazade to tell a story during the long night. The King lay awake and listened with awe as Scheherazade told her first story. The night passed by, and Scheherazade stopped in the middle of the story. The King asked her to finish, but Scheherazade said there was not time, as dawn was breaking. So, the King spared her life for one day to finish the story the next night. So the next night, Scheherazade finished the story, and then began a second, even more exciting tale which she again stopped halfway through, at dawn…
And behold~~it made me think of something I’d been sorely neglecting in my own writing. It’s not that I’m not careful about finishing a character’s thought, or wrapping up a scene so that the next one fits right into slot B. Specifically, I’m talking about the kind of chapter endings that are so temptingly powerful that the reader MUST go on.
It’s not often that I find a book that, once started, I simply can’t put down. But when I do, it makes a serious impact on my reading, and I’m more inclined to look forward to future offerings, or to glom their backlist.
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is good, smart storytelling, whether done over one thousad times or not.