Too much is not enough.

Alatorre
your humble host

Try to paint emotion in thick when you have a dramatic scene.

Use more words than you think you need.

When Bonnie, the killer, is about to confront the random fisherman after the murder, YOU have the scene in your head. You’re seeing it in all its tension-filled glory.

But is the reader?

Did you put it on the page?

Deliver MORE than an adequate amount of info. For the scene to sear itself into the reader’s mind, we need to go bigger at those times. Have her holding her breath, wiping sweaty palms on her pants leg, interspersing thoughts about do I have a second kill I’m about to have to make? What does he want? Is this car a cop?

Then, dwell there.

Readers are reading SO FAST at those times (because it’s exciting), YOU can add and add and add and make us wade through it, because it’s hugely dramatic. What tales hours to write takes mere seconds to read – and we want the reader in that moment for as looooong as possible, to heighten the drama.

Here’s a good EXAMPLE, broken down into detail.

How long would it take to read 45 seconds of material when you are reading FAST?

(I don’t know, but it’s a lot.) Set a timer and see how many words you get through (of someone else’s book) in 45 seconds. Count the words and add about 25% to it. That’s the minimum you should have between Bonnie seeing the strange truck coming and her deciding to leave.

Next, there’s a scene in Stephen King’s book Pet Sematary where a jogger gets his skull bashed in by a passing car and dies on the MC’s floor. Get the book from the library or buy it online and read that scene. It’s a cheap lesson in drama writing from a real master.

Read that passage.

King shows the scene and then details the brain showing and whatnot, so

we HAVE to dwell there for a moment, in that gross visual. And he holds our nose right up to it. It’s gory but it has an effect.

You’re supposed to be grossed out because the MC was. This is different, but it’s the same idea.

It’s a technique. Use it.

The difference in detail here versus regular scenes will be noticeable but since you only employ it at highly dramatic times, readers will not even care; they will simply feel the character was deeply into the scene, so the reader will be – which is what we want.

Your reader is your willing accomplice. Give them what they came for.

What book’s scenes really seared themselves into YOUR head?

6 thoughts on “Too much is not enough.

  1. I just finished reading “Sorry” by Gail Jones. In the opening scene the MC makes a passing reference to seeing her father’s dead body, his shirt covered in blood. It is just that, a passing reference before we get deep into back story, but it has planted a need to know more. As the book continues we return to that scene time and again, each time with a little more detail until about two thirds or more through the book we get all the detail. By now we know enough about the MC, her family and the situation to begin to have more than an inkling about what really happened but various possibilities about who did it and why have been alluded to before we get the full horror of the truth which the MC has blotted from her memory until the point of denouement. The book is a lot more than a mere murder mystery – it is a slice of Australia’s racist past, too, and an allegory of the unwillingness of the authorities to say “sorry” for the way the aboriginal people were treated. But the murder mystery thread and the way it is handled, makes for a powerful piece of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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