In my break down of the first chapter of FIRELIGHT, I talked about stretching the moment. And I realized two things: how powerful this can be and it has always been one of my weaknesses as a writer. Yep. I admit it.
As I write and as I go to “stretch a moment” doubt plagues me.
Will readers care enough about my character or should I go on to the next beat?
These details seem kind of trivial and I’m not supposed to have fluff in my work.
Don’t readers skim paragraphs like this?
I don’t want to lose the attention of a reader on the first page, I’d better move on.
That way of thinking is all wrong. And it comes down to lack of confidence, which is like poison in writing and spreads quickly through out the pages. The importance of a beat determines how many words you spend on it.
Why should a writer learn to “stretch a moment”?
- Instead of killing suspense, it actually creates more.
- Instead of boring a reader, it draws them into the character so they make a stronger connection.
- It allows time to bring in sensory details and internal conflict.
- It signals to the reader that this scene is important and they’ll want to read more.
A great example is the first chapter of THE LIAR SOCIETY by the Roecker sisters.
They open with a tremendous hook: Her email didn’t move or disappear or do any of the creepy things I’d expect an email from a ghost to do.
And then Lila milked this moment to absolute perfection. Their whole first chapter is filled with Kate’s reaction to this email, her physical responses and internal conflict. Kate pulls out the memory box and goes through mementos. She remembers. She laughs. She cries.
After this first chapter I felt connected. I cared. And I was 100% behind Kate when she decides to solve Grace’s supposed accidental death. Without this tender moment being stretched over the entire first chapter, I would not have cared as much. I now had a stake in Grace’s life and death.
What does this mean for me?
I’ll make a pass on my current wip just to stretch out the moments that are emotionally important. I’ll look at major plot points and also the turning point of each scene.
If I can face my giants – you can too!
What are your weaknesses? How do you write past them?