Tag Archives | adding emotion to your story

Writing past our weaknesses and why we should do it.

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?

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Friday 5 – Plant and Pay off – how to make your reader go “aha!”

I almost titled this post, How to turn your date night into research, but I realized all the different ways that could be misconstrued.

Fade in: Friday night at the Pauling house. Kids in bed. Time for pizza and a movie.

Me: I totally forgot about this movie. I must have always missed it at Red Box.

Hubbie: What is it?

Me: You’ll have to wait and see. (I’m so mysterious.)

Later, curled up on the couch, hubbie presses play.

Hubbie: Ah, we’ve seen this one.

Me: No way. It just showed up on Red Box. It must be new.

As we watched, I acknowledged that we had seen it. (Yes, I often do this.) But this time, after months of studying structure, I noticed some things worth sharing. Revelations.

Revelations from THE GHOST OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST. (A man is haunted by girlfriends from the past at his younger brother’s wedding.)

The plant and pay off that Alex Sokoloff talks about is very similar to the six flaws/problems that Blake Snyder talks about.

1. At the start, Connor (Matthew McConaughey) photographs woman in their underwear  (and he’s a jerk) and at the end he’s photographing his brother’s wedding.

2. At the start, we see an image of the empty swing set; in the middle we see the main leads (Matthew and Jennifer Garner) as kids on the swings; and at the end we see them again, with the male lead changed.

3. At the start, after choking when asking Jenny (Jennifer Garner)  to dance, his uncle picks him up in this old car and first instills the wrong idea that falling in love is not the way to go. Basically, love them and leave them. At the end, Connor uses that same car, breaking out of the garage, to track down his brother’s fiancé as she leaves the wedding. Complete turn around.

4. Somewhat at the beginning, Connor, in his selfishness, accidentally destroys the five-layer wedding cake. At the end, they show it repaired.

5. At the start, in the rehearsal dinner, Connor refuses to do the toast the next day and basically destroys the idea of marriage with his harsh words. At the end, in a moving, heart felt speech, he gives the toast to true love.

Wow. Talk about change. And because of all these plants or flaws/problems at the start; at the end, I was saying “aha”. And, of course, proceeded to share with my Hubbie the genius of the plant and pay off concept.  (He’s used to it.)

It’s not just a gimmick. It’s a tool to show the change in a character. It wouldn’t have meant as much if he’d changed jobs and became an interior decorator, or if he’d used his own car to chase down the fiancé, or if they’d bought a new cake, or if someone else had given the toast, or if the final moments were in the garden and not by the swing set.

These plants brought out symbolism, theme, and emotional power and made the movie emotional satisfying. And this concept can do the same for your story.

Have you seen this movie? It’s a tiny bit cheesy, but there were many other plants that I didn’t even mention. Worth a date night to watch.  Have you seen this concept in books or movie done well?

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