Friday, February 20, 2015

Happy Friday, you jive turkeys!

Yesterday, I was really jazzed because, after my embittered blog post about the insufferability of writer’s block, I went on to write 2,186 words. I’m entering a part of the story where the only map I have is “tension construction site this way, bring hard hat.” In my first draft, I didn’t do so well at building and releasing tension. I shied away from anyone doing anything too terrible, because people are people and despite having a lot of evidence to the contrary, my brain can’t really accept the fact that people can be absolutely bestial to each other—which makes it hard for me to dream up ways to do that.

It’s actually a bit of a departure from my style to not be able to write despicable characters. Usually, I find that I go way too dark when I imagine narratives. People don’t have normal money problems; they’re prostituting themselves to afford their single bean of a dinner. But with this story, I have to go back through and actually insert cussing. I have to take whatever it was I was going to say, and reimagine it a few shades darker. Otherwise, it’ll come across as pathetic instead of villainous. It’s a weird problem to have, for me. But I think I’m getting there.

I think tension comes from extremes. For example. In our everyday lives, we feel tense about things, and justifiably so. Will the test cover the things we studied? Will we get the promotion? Will I test positive? Did he get my email? Is she mad? These things can cause great tension for us, personally. But if you have a friend who’s telling you about the things that are causing them stress, you’ll feel sympathy for them, but probably no sympathetic tension. BUT: If getting a failing grade on that test means your friend not getting into grad school, or graduating high school—you will probably be hanging on the results. The bigger the stakes, the more tension is built within the conflict. In the context of most stories, bigger stakes usually means more physical danger. (Don’t get mad at me, people who like domestic drama. Those are good too.)

So, how do we balance the danger and the mystery? Too much danger and we give away the answer. Too little, and we feel no tension. It’s a balancing act. For this, we invented the “delete” button—because the nice thing is, we don’t have to do it right the first time. We are performing with a net.

Word count: 26,430 (朾)

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