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Friday, September 24, 2010

Layer Up (the tension) for Autumn!

Autumn has arrived and the weather is turning crisp. SO, this is a FABULOUS time to dress your scenes well by layering up the tension. Take an average scene and make it pop.

Where to start? Try dialogue scenes. A speaker at the RMFW conference gave a wonderful example. Say your two characters are having a heated discussion in the house. Good dialogue, good information, but a little stagnant. Why not move them out to the garden?

Suddenly, the possibilities are endless. Your middle grade protagonist is mad and arguing with his parent while doing requisite weeding. He stabs the trowel into the dirt hard and deep to show it. Maybe a nosy neighbor sticks her head over the fence and annoys the crud out of the kid. He’s even more worked up now. Maybe it starts to rain and lightning strikes close by. All these things add layers to a simple scene of dialogue, and the reader will be more engaged by the pages.

How about a hospital scene in a YA novel? Maybe your love interests are chatting from the beds, having a talk that divulges important information and hidden passion. That’s fantastic, but how can you bring something more to the situation? Hmmm, what if the guy gets up and hobbles over for a glass of water? Okay, there’s some action. MORE. What if, he happens to have a hospital gown on that’s split up to his bum and your blushing protagonist sneaks a glance at his bottom while they chat? Boom, giggles galore. That scene just got more interesting to some readers.

One of the biggest things I learned is that your manuscript, whether fantasy or contemporary, needs to have a realistic tone. That said, the readers want to see your character challenged, so don’t be afraid to pour on the conflict. Think outside the box and add a phone ringing at an unexpected moment, a traffic accident when someone’s already late, a full bladder during test time—you get the idea.

Don’t go overboard (inserting gardens and bottoms where they just don’t belong), but check out your scenes and see if there’s a way that you can make them even better. Make any changes deliberately and with purpose (and because they will truly improve your scene), not just because some random lady like me gave you a suggestion :)

Have a wonderful weekend! I'll be hiking in some higher altitudes with the family to see Fall foliage (leaves change early in the mountains...our Fall season is too short in my mind), and will definitely be layering up (clothes this time, not tension).

See you on Tuesday!


  1. Great post! I think I'm guilty of not putting enough tension in my scenes... :P