The Noble Pen for May 16, 2013

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 16th, 2013 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids


Please read the Member Guide on the web site and reply to the moderator or at the meeting with any suggested changes.


Dylan is preparing for a panel discussion and would like to be reminded of any sci-fi women characters in military situations.


The summer (northern hemisphere) edition of Science Fiction News is available.

Along with more literary matters, they report the gossip that Gandalf will officiate at the marriage of  Captain Jean Luc Picard to his fiancee.


Dylan lost a commission due to delays, but will now have more time for other writing.  He got 4th place in the first round of a writing contest and advances to the next round.


The writer must balance between conflicting advice:

-Uncertainty is what makes tension.  Tension is what keeps the reader turning pages.  A shoot-out has no tension if we are sure the good guy won’t get hurt.  A romance has no tension if we know how the girl will end up with the prince.  A murder mystery usually isn’t mysterious if we know who did it and how.

-No “deus ex machina”, pulling a miracle out of nowhere to save the protagonist.  You can’t make up an ending that has no roots in the earlier pages.  Important events should be foreshadowed.   The Ellery Queen mysteries had a rule that the reader should always think at the end that they could have figured out the mystery, because all the necessary clues were there.

Chekhov’s gun:  if there is a gun on the mantelpiece in an early scene, it must be used later in the story.   The reader shouldn’t have to remember and sort through too much irrelevant detail.


So how do you put in all the information, and omit irrelevant information, without spoiling the uncertainty?  If everything is important, there isn’t much room for uncertainty.   Some writers advise a moderate amount of misdirection.

-Give the important event or fact an obvious, unimportant reason to be there.  Let the reader assume a lower relevance for events than they turn out to have.  Use details that just seem like scene-setting but turn out to be critical.

-Think like the stage magician, who keeps you focused on one had while the other does the tricky work.  Give the reader clearly vital information but distract them by immediately going into the battle, chase, or emotional confrontation.

-Let something obviously important turn out to have a different meaning than assumed.

-Don’t lie to the reader, or place too much emphasis on the red herring, or they will feel cheated.  Just lead them to lie to themselves.

See these articles:  misdirectionanother,  and this one.

Upcoming Schedule

May 16th


May 23rd

Open slots

May 30th

Open slot

June 6th

Open slots

Keep Writing,