Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Tension Mystery Drama
The second novel of my Pepper Bibeau mystery series is well underway with all the plot lines established. Now that I understand each of the characters’ roles, and how they've decided to act, I am ready to add the full weight of their reactions. That's the fun part.
After reading and rereading Donald Maass’ The Fire In Fiction, I know the most important task of writing is to create conflict for or within my characters. Conflict creates tension, mystery, and drama. It carries the threat of failure, something to which I can relate. Most people can.
Why does the threat of failure create such stress?
1. The father of seven doesn’t get the promotion that would include a much needed raise - will the family have enough to eat?
2. A young girl who doesn’t know how to swim falls into the deep end of the community pool - will she make it to the pool’s edge?
3. A strong wind causes a harsh drop in temperature - will the hikers survive?
Anyone can easily bring a scenario to its logical conclusion, but a good writer will continue to raise the stakes and tension, until that conclusion is reached.
A missed promotion or lost raise means less money for food. Unhealthy meals may lead to weakened brain power causing:
... lower grade scores for the child struggling to concentrate;
... slower reaction time in the mother cooking at a hot stove or carrying a squirming baby;
... reduced quality of critical-thinking for the father in his job as a stock broker or vehicle assembly lineman or construction crane operator.
Knowing that the result of one or more of these consequences can be deadly creates tension.
***If the young girl who falls into the pool can’t swim, and the gathering of people is loud, her distress might go unnoticed until it is too late.
***Or when her friend jumps in to save her, the girl panics and they both drown.
***Another possibility is that someone knows the girl can't swim and pushes her in, then covers her shouts for help by turning up a boom box to top volume, which leads to a CSI-type mystery.
A group of people climbing one of Alaska’s snow-covered mountains is unprepared for the drastic drop in temperature.
### Unable to reach shelter, and without proper clothing, two members curl up in the snow and freeze to death.
### Maybe the group brought tents, but one person wanders away from camp in a disoriented state and dies of exposure.
### Or worse, there isn’t enough room in the sheltered area, and the person who draws the short straw is exposed to a subzero wind chill factor. Drama ensues.
Whatever your choice of genre, what intrigues you most about a novel and keeps you reading: tension, mystery, or drama?
You can find The Fire In Fiction on Kindle:
The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass