“He fell for an eighteen-year-old girl with one of those deepdown, spooky loves that made him so sad and happy he shot her just to keep the feeling going.” This is the fourth sentence of my favorite novel, Toni Morrison’s Jazz. By the opening lines, we know the book’s main event. The pleasure of reading comes not from discovering the what, but the how and why: how and why this middle-aged adulterer murdered his teenage lover.
In teaching, curating, editing, and writing fiction, I’m drawn to the stories whose mysteries revolve around how and why instead of what. Too often we make readers wait for the big reveal, the punchline, the volta of the story, and our efforts in shaping the narrative to reach that reveal become too apparent. Instead, we can make the “big event” of the story the catalyst for our own discoveries as writers. This way we leave room for our own surprise, which can lead to bigger thrills for our readers.
—Alexandra Watson, executive editor, Apogee