Friday, November 13, 2009

Blog Chain: Mo' drama

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
extremely rough.)

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.


B.J. Anderson said...

Wow, that was great! It really shows how environment can mess with a story. Great ending to this topic!

Eva Gallant said...

Constantly learning when I visit your blog!

Rosslyn Elliott said...

That's a great example, and a great scene! I'm excited that you are writing a new story, and enjoying it. :-)

Mandy said...

Great post Kat! Drama City!!!

christine said...

I just LOVE reading your stuff!!! Great job!

ElanaJ said...

Girl, if that's NaNo material, I bow to your greatness. You are awesome. :)

Kat Harris said...

LOL Elana.

I have to admit, I did clean it up a little. I'm too embarrassed to put up the stuff that flows naturally from my brain to my fingers. That material makes about as much sense as me wearing a bikini in January in Nebraska.

Believe me...not only is it nonsense, nobody -- and I mean nobody -- wants to see it.

Cole Gibsen said...

I second Elana. My first drafts and nano novels look more like the writing of Mo Willems. "Aggle Flabble Klabble!"

Sarah Bromley said...

Great post, and I really enjoyed the excerpt you posted. I'd definitely read more.

Eric said...

This is awesome stuff. Rough draft NaNo? This looks more like second or third draft quality to me. I really like how you ask questions and then try to work the answers into your story. I need to do something like that. Thanks for the idea.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

Yay for this. I love drama that comes from external sources over which your character has no control.