Category: High Maintenance

Should I spell it out?

SPOILER ALERT: I’m about to reveal the endings to two of my books – High Maintenance and Honor System. If you haven’t read them – DO NOT READ THIS POST!

I have a pet peeve with books that spell things out. As a reader, I don’t like being talked down to. If the author gives hints or even significant details leading up to something, I want him to trust me that I’ve picked up on these things.

With that in mind…as a writer, I sometimes forget that I’ve lived with my characters a long time, and the story’s been building in my head for ages, and I make the mistake of assuming that my readers are right there with me.

Case in point: the ending to High Maintenance.

It jumps ten years ahead (the title of the last chapter is EVER AFTER, and I mention that Ryan thinks about his accident from ten years ago). Cat, the daughter of Andy and Karen, is coughing and wakes up with night sweats. Ryan comes into her bedroom and comforts her. I also mention that there’s a child who looks like Carly in bed with Ryan and Carly.

So what the heck is happening? Cat is HIV positive (hence the coughs and sweats). Andy and Karen have passed away from AIDS, or at least can no longer care for Cat, so Cat’s living with Ryan and Carly. Ryan and Carly are together (we can presume married), and have a daughter of their own.

I didn’t want to spell it out, because I didn’t want my readers to think I considered them too simple to get it, but now that I have some distance from the book, I realize I should have been clearer. Damn it.

I made the same mistake in Honor System.

At the end, Nicole Calyx has basically taken Emmaleth hostage in order to become a Dweller. Emmaleth’s brother Free, who we know has the power to hurt someone, stands at the locked door and concentrates. Then he collapses. Em screams, and we find out Nicole has had the predicted aneurysm and is dead.

So what happened? Free killed her. I don’t believe Free killed her on purpose, but he certainly wanted to stop Nicole from hurting Em.

So tell me: did you understand what happened? Did you get that Free gave her the stroke? I’d really love your feedback, because the last thing I want is for my books to be unclear.