Shannon Stacey


I have a sticky note that says resonate/callback on my desk. And it’s a good thing it’s there, because that’s what I’m working on right now, and if it weren’t for that sticky note, I’d say fuggedaboudit and not care if my ending resonates.

It was Deborah Hale who first turned the emotional resonance lightbulb on for me. (Deb is not only a fabulous writer–I can’t believe I have to wait until August for The Destined Queen, the sequel to The Wizard’s Ward, which I loved, from Luna–but she’s also one of my favorite people, and very giving of herself to aspiring writers. )

Anyway. Emotional resonance, to me, is the key to the big HEA sigh. Jerry Maguire has huge emotional resonance. His line, “You complete me”, calls you back to the beginning, when in the elevator she tells him that the hearing-impaired man signed to his love,”You complete me.” You could see that she wanted that more than just about anything. And she proves in the movie that she won’t settle for less. So when Tom Cruise says those words in his manly, tear-choked voice, it resonates for us. It brings the movie full circle.

In The King and I, when Yul Brynner is lying on his death bed, Deborah Kerr makes a show of trying to lower her head, so it’s lower than the king’s. One of their first great moments was the battle of her head being above his, and there were several funny moments revolving around the same thing. So during that tearful ending, that moment resonates, making it even more bittersweet.

In comedy, it’s called the callback. John Vorhaus, author of the indispensable The Comic Toolbox, talks about the callback:

In Tootsie, Julie asks Dorothy why she uses so much makeup, and Dorothy alludes to a “mustache problem.” Later, Julie kisses Dorothy and says, “I feel that mustache.”

At the end of Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter tells Clarisse that he’s “having an old friend for dinner.” In calling back to his cannibal habits, Lecter buttons the movie, giving the story a wonderfully fulfilling (not to say filling) sense of closure.

And I’d recommend The Comic Toolbox for every writer, not just the funny–or wanting to be funny-ones.

So that’s what I’m working on now. I promised my editor she’d have this Monday.


3 comments to “Resonate/Callback”

  1. Anon CJ
      · March 25th, 2005 at 8:22 am · Link

    If the hero makes her resonate…he’ll get a callback :neener:

  2. Shannon
      · March 25th, 2005 at 9:07 am · Link


    Clean-up on monitor 1.

  3. halle
      · March 28th, 2005 at 1:46 pm · Link

    Hey Jon did’t know you are reading this too :0. Greets

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