Welcome to another Round Robin discussion! This month we’re focusing on keeping up the tension in a book from start to finish.
After several years writing books, I can sense when a scene is slacking now. It derails me and I pick up my crystal ball (no, really, I have one) and start hashing things out using three “writer’s tools” from my personal toolbox.
If you haven’t heard of the writer’s toolbox, I suggest reading Stephen King’s On Writing, as well as frequenting the Writing Excuses podcast. Both are invaluable.
There I am, writing along, when… ugh, this scene is dragging. Why is this taking so long for me to write?
Because we know that if it isn’t interesting to the writer, then it certainly won’t be interesting for the reader, right?
First tool in the box – POV.
Basically, I have to ask if I put the right Point of View character in this scene. Are they too competent for the situation?
For example, if we have a broken down car, we obviously want a mechanic there to fix it. But that’s not drama, that’s not tension, we need someone incompetent in there to see what they do.
Second tool in the box – Stakes.
Oftentimes, when a scene is slacking, it means I need to up the stakes for them. This doesn’t have to be life or death stakes, it can be something smaller. And really, it’s the smaller things that help ground us in the character anyway.
For example, if the character is lost in the middle of a town because somehow your plot got them there. Not only do they want to figure out where they are, but we give them another want as well… like, say, a burrito.
I’m sure we can all share the frustration of being lost in an unfamiliar town, and we can share the feeling of hunger. These aren’t huge stakes, but they are stakes, and the character’s repeated mantra to find a burrito adds some humor.
Third tool in the box – Meshing.
This one is simply the realization that we can combine two scenes together to make a stronger narrative. I use this one quite a lot in the editing stage. When I do my first read-through, I mark each chapter by color based on their strength. Anything yellow can be combined, and I’ve found the book as a whole benefits.
And that’s it! That’s a peek into my writer’s toolbox. Check out what my fellow authors have to say in this month’s round robin.
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Anne Stenhouse http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1oh
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com