Friday, January 8, 2016

Emotional Peaks: How to Make Sure They're in Your Scenes and Chapters

When you read a great story, you don't even notice how you're engaged.  You just are--right?  But skillful writers plant a rhythm into their writing.  Like breathing, there are peaks and valleys of emotion and tension through all great scenes, chapters, even whole books. 

In a class I taught, I drew a diagram of a river on the board to illustrate this.  "This makes it very easy.  I just put heightened moments of tension at each bend in the river," one student noted.  "Maybe a big decision, a change of heart, a new understanding.  Or an external shift, like a move or a marriage or a big loss."  It made a big difference in her book structure to finally understand these "emotional peaks:" to view her scenes, chapters, and manuscript like a flowing river.