We have been doing “Spotlight on the Art of…” for 3 books now, We have 3 in the works: 2 that are not Spotlight books and one that spotlights Fear, and we’re in the conception phase of another one. You have been to plays and concerts where they had a follow spot on the main players. In using a spotlight you are illuminating a “spot” on the stage.
If you are running the light, you really HOPE that your artist is Standing in that light. My friend, Ruth, was an expert in follow spot, and her favorite saying was, “If there’s a dark spot on the stage, my guy will find it.” The problem with using a follow spot is that performers and actors especially tend to move about the set. The director does the blocking saying, “You must be at This spot at This point in the scene.” Now how the actor gets to that spot is somewhat an adventure. Ideally, the follow spot operator is in on the rehearsal and has the notes on the blocking. Why? Because if you FOLLOW the actor, you MISS the actor. You have to anticipate his moves so you’re not trying to catch up to him.
What does this have to do with writing? When you set your theme for your book, and choose the main point, you are effectively putting a spotlight on it. You add the characters or the information you want to include to bring your readers’ attention to the thing standing in the spotlight.
You do NOT spread out the spotlight so it’s an area light in order to include everything you’re writing. There are some things in your book that are interesting but not vital. There are things that are not essential that may pull your audience’s attention away from the spotlight. This may be useful in a mystery. If you do not want the readers to guess the ending, you do not put too much foreshadowing or too many hints in. You don’t want them to solve the mystery before they’re half way into the book! But if you’re trying to guide people to a conclusion and make a point, you need to keep that spotlight small and evident.
In the International Speech contest for Toastmasters, one of the techniques the winners use is a “tag line” that keeps pointing to the spotlight of their speeches. You can do that in your book as well. You must have a purpose in your book. It can be to simply entertain, or to make a point, or to discover another level of awareness in the reader. If you have your purpose firmly in mind, figure out a reminding device that keeps people’s focus on what you’re spotlighting.
A reminding device can be as simple as a recurring phrase, “I had never noted his shifty eyes before.” It can be a location or description, “Nothing ever good came of a new moon, and tonight was no exception.” It could be a recurring character, “When I was low, Bob, you were there. When I broke my leg, you were there. When my dog died, you were there. Bob? You’re a jinx!” Remember, you’re always trying to focus your readers’ attention to the main point of your book.
When you have written your first draft, take a look at how many times people can see the focus of your story. Are you getting to the point? Do they know it?! Then you’re off to a great start!