Christine kicked off this blog chain round with this question:
How do you create a wonderfully dramatic story? Are there any questions you ask yourself, or specific things you keep in mind to ensure that you have the level of tension necessary to propel the story forward?
The first thing that popped into my head when I read this was Story Sensei, a blog written by Camy Tang. She has some incredible tips on how to add tension to each and every scene. I highly recommend checking it out.
The second thing that popped into my head when I read this was a scene I recently wrote on my nano book.
“The End of Me” chronicles the journey of two characters: a mother, Penny Marx, and her son, Lucas. It opens with Lucas’ discovering that his parents aren’t exactly who they say they are. The narrative then alternates between Lucas’ struggle to accept the truth and Penny’s misguided reasons for doing what she did.
The scene that came to mind when I read Christine's question focused on the birth of Penny’s oldest child. My original intent was for the occasion to be complicated merely by the absence of her husband. It went something like this: (Now, please keep in mind these samples are from my nano novel, so it’s
Dad parked in the emergency lane at the hospital. This couldn’t happen yet. Not without Tony. But the pain that shot through me soon convinced me otherwise.
While this turn of events made for an uncomfortable situation for Penny, I couldn’t get behind it.
Something was missing. So I started asking myself about different aspects of Penny’s environment.
Who else could be with Penny? Her dad’s I-don’t-need-help-to-do-this attitude plays heavily into the situation. Since I liked the idea of putting him in charge of the situation, I decided to leave this aspect alone.
What time of year is it? It’s New Year’s Eve.
Why is Penny’s husband absent for this joyous event? He’s kind of a deadbeat, so your guess is as good as mine.
Where does she live in relationship to the hospital? Bonus! This is a variable I can manipulate to fit the scene.
And the most important question of all: What’s the worst that could happen? Well let’s see.
The car fishtailed onto the thoroughfare. When I gained enough courage to look, I found Dad hunched forward, squinting into the storm.
“How much farther?”“Just hang on, Kitten.” By now, panic was clenching his voice, too.
The surface of my belly stiffened like a wall of steel. I cried out.
Dad reached for me, but the Buick jerked and metal began grinding against metal. My hand ripped from his as I lurched forward. The seatbelt cut across my stomach, whipping me back against the seat. When we came to rest, I thought we’d be okay. Then the car jolted sideways. Something hit my head and glass sprayed toward me.
Opening my eyes, I found myself sprawled across the front seat, no longer restrained.
“Daddy…Daddy, it hurts.”
“Just hold on, Penny.” Beneath his breath, I heard him whisper, My God, please help her.
“I’m here, Penny. Just hold on.”
His voice distorted as pain cleaved through me again.
A strange haze settled around us. Enveloped in a world that seemed to be growing colder by the second, I stared up at the shattered fragments of the passenger window. Trails of red trickled downward, a stark contrast with the white flakes swirling above me.
As reality thinned, the name Tony and I had picked out for our baby flitted through my mind. It meant glittering; glowing white. I felt my mouth form around its syllables. Isn’t it funny, the things you think of when you think you’re about to die?
OK. Granted, that scene might be a little over the top, but complicating Penny's trip to the hospital with a blizzard and an accident sure was a heckuva lot more fun to write (and read, I hope) than my first try. The scene also helped set up complications Penny would have later on in the story.
And it all started by asking myself questions about how the characters, their environment, how their situations could get worse and not being afraid of getting carried away.
Isn’t that the point of fiction?
Now check out what Eric had to say before me. Or check out Amanda's blog on Nov. 16, as she kicks off the next round.