Remember: The READER Doesn’t Know The Characters Are Okay!

At a few key places in The Water Castle, I really built up the tension – and it works. Nail biter stuff.

The reader is tense, the character is tense…

Hell, I was tense.

(I discovered a little trick, that whatever I wanted the reader to feel, I had to make a character feel. We’re in their heads after all, as readers, so if they are biting their fingernail and creeping slowly holding their breath, we tend to do that, too. I mean, you have to paint it right but that’s a big part of it. That’s also why, if your MC likes/dislikes/trusts/loves/hates another character, your reader will, too – if you allowed the reader to know and like the MC first.)

But

At a few other places that should have had tension, the story didn’t deliver it.

(Yet; it’s the first draft.)

Stacie’s friend is suddenly hauled away by Spanish soldiers from the 1600’s to the dungeon. Sure, Stacie gets nervous, as does the friend, but neither gets super upset.

 

Um… what was I thinking?

 

Two things. One, I know her friend doesn’t get hurt. Because I wrote it. I know she’s okay and not to worry too much.

 

That wasn’t intentional; I was excited to get on to the next scene – where some big time drama was about to happen. (That’s number two, of the two things.) There’s a big cliffhanger ending to that chapter, too. It totally rocks. Stacie… I don’t know. She was in the way. Stand over there; I’ll get to you, Stace.

 

That’s because I know nothing bad happens to Stacie or her friend.

 

I have to remember the reader doesn’t know that, and build it up.

 

That’s why first drafts are shit. But luckily, we get to make second drafts. In that version, I’ll add the necessary emotion, and then the big drama scene will be even bigger.

 

What are some of the mistakes you’ve caught between your first and second drafts?

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

26 thoughts on “Remember: The READER Doesn’t Know The Characters Are Okay!

  1. Same principal as “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”
    It’s easy to forget to think about what a character feels when we’re trying to get the words of the story down. I tend to go back over what I wrote several times (too many times, I’m sure) and add that layer in gradually. What I call a first draft is probably more like a second or third. My “true” first drafts are just a mess… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. First of all, your first draft sounds way better than any of mine ever have. My first drafts sound more like a 200 page synopsis. (they did this and then that, then they kissed and more stuff….)

    Secondly, isn’t it funny after you let a manuscript rest for a bit, you can see those crazy gaps? Like: why was that character speaking when she wasn’t even in the room? How can my character be driving and walking at the same time?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have sooo done the same thing. Since I know everything’s going to be fine, I don’t put in the necessary tension on the first go-round. Sometimes it takes a couple drafts or even a beta reader to find it.

    Editing. Ugh. If the writing fairy ever offers me a superpower, I would ask to be able to write excellent first drafts. Until then, it’s try and try again until it sparkles.

    Keep polishing, Dan. I’m sure it’ll be great. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think I’ve told this story before but in Scripting the Truth, I had this whole set up that I wanted to have happen and I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen. It wasn’t until I went back in my first real read through that I realized I forgot to let the sister in law have her baby. She was like fifteen months pregnant at the end of my first draft and letting her have the damn thing solved all my how do I get from point A to point B issues.

    Liked by 1 person

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