Thanks to so many of you who went over to Author Expressions yesterday. If you didn't check my 'audition' post, you can find it here.
While doing edits definitely qualifies as writing, yesterday was the first time in about 10 days that I’ve been able to sit down and work on the new WIP. I’ve tried once again to analyze my process.
My basic premise in writing a scene is to decide what needs to happen to move the story along. I’ve discussed keeping tension in the story, so I’ll try to go over my points and show how I attempt to add that tension.
The scene: Elizabeth and Will return from shopping. Will is in his room drawing with his new pastels. Elizabeth is trying to relax by reading. (Yawning yet?). The moving van driver calls to set up delivery in two days. Elizabeth thinks about her husband and the risks she’s taking with her new life. Will comes in and shows her a picture he’s drawn—the hero’s dog. She puts it on the mantel. The welcome lady shows up to tell her about the neighborhood and gives her a basket of goodies. The welcome lady notices the picture and comments that it’s an excellent likeness. She asks if Elizabeth’s son drew it.
By now, you’re probably not just yawning, you’re asleep. Well, wake up for a moment and let’s see if I’ve managed to kick it up by adding some tension.
In order to keep the tension level high, even the mundane has to have the possibility of being more than first impressions would suggest. There should be more than one way to interpret anything on the page. So even if I, the author, know that a character or event is harmless, I can’t let the reader know.
Let’s take it point by point with my comments in red, and direct quotes from the scene in blue.
Elizabeth and Will return from shopping. Will is in his room drawing with his new pastels. Elizabeth is trying to relax by reading. (Yawning yet?).
Boring, but this is covered in a single paragraph:
With her purchases put away and Will happily giving his new supplies a test drive, Elizabeth sat with a cup of tea and the new paperback she'd picked up. She'd earned a break. Two chapters in, she set the book aside. What had possessed her to pick up a suspense thriller? She was already on edge. She should have gone for the romance. At least in those books, someone had a happily-ever-after.
By making the book a suspense-thriller, we have the added ‘twist’ that she’s going to be overreacting to everything. So although the fears are on the page, the reader isn’t sure if they’re real or imagined.
The moving van driver calls to set up delivery in two days.
Okay, this is simply a classic ‘phone rings, she jumps’ scenario. But it also sets the stage for her having to deal with someone she doesn’t know showing up at her home. It’s covered quickly, in a sentence or two. We also get to see Elizabeth chiding herself for being so jumpy—again adding that ‘is he going to be a bad guy’ possibility.
Elizabeth thinks about her husband and the risks she’s taking with her new life.
This reinforces her entire GMC for the book, and reveals a new fact to the reader.
Victor didn't like losing. And even though he'd barely paid attention to Will after his surgery, she knew Victor, and knew he'd never tolerate someone making off with something that belonged to him.
Of course, he considered her another one of his possessions. And if he ever found out what else she'd taken from him…
Will comes in and shows her a picture he’s drawn—the hero’s dog. She puts it on the mantel.
Will wants to give the picture to Grinch’s son—but that would mean she’d have to confront him again. Here the conflict is focused on the romance plot, which needs to be addressed throughout the book. Both the mystery and the romance should be entwined so one can’t exist without the other. So, this point also demonstrates Will’s talent—something Elizabeth fears might allow her husband to trace him. She tries to decide if she should see if Will can draw people—such as the man she thinks has been following them.
The welcome lady shows up to tell her about the neighborhood and gives her a basket of goodies.
How to add tension to that plot point? She hears a car approach. It’s a dusty SUV. She’s already seen one that she thinks might have been following her. But where she lives, dusty SUVs are the norm. Again, two ways to interpret what’s on the page.
At first, she can’t see who’s getting out of the SUV. Tension. It’s an elderly woman carrying a basket. Release. But is the woman who she seems to be? Tension. She has cookies in the basket from her family bakery. Release. Elizabeth tries to project the image of a normal, everyday mom. This means she has to be hospitable, even though she wants the woman out of the house. Tension. The woman makes small talk which also allows the reader to learn more about Elizabeth’s new town. Release.
The welcome lady notices the picture and comments that it’s an excellent likeness. She asks if Elizabeth’s son drew it.
Elizabeth fought rising panic. Surely Will's artistic style wasn't distinctive enough for this woman to zero in on it, like you could recognize a Rembrandt or a Picasso. Maybe Victor was more clever than she'd thought.
Although the scene is still in draft form, I'm hoping I've managed to get some tension into the mundane. And come back tomorrow for the Friday Field Trip.