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.)


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.