Have you ever seen T-shirts with the saying: My (sister/brother/best friend’s uncle’s cousin) went to (fill in name of awesome tourist destination here) and all I got was this lousy T-shirt?
Yeah, it’s kinda like that.
The door of my writing office that leads to outside clicks shut. “What is so important it couldn’t wait until after coffee, love?”
I look up as my Muse steps into view. “What took you so long?”
He leans against the partial wall that separates the recliner nook from the outside door, to-go coffee cup in hand. His T-shirt, a faded green with a wash-worn decal of a surfing kangaroo over an outline of Australia, is a fitting accessory to his gray sweatpants. Scruff covers his face, and he neglected to do any sort of hair-taming. He lifts the coffee cup. “Caribou. If I’d known I’d have to wait in line for fifteen minutes, I would’ve made my own.” He takes a sip. “What’s the emergency?”
Wow, he managed to say that without a smirk. “It sucks.” There. Simple. Succinct.
He raises an eyebrow. “It’s a draft. It’s supposed to suck.”
“It’s my third revision, and it still sucks.” Yes, I know I sound like I’m whining, but damn it. Just, damn it.
He takes another sip. “I’m not doing your ‘homework’ for you, love. My job is to inspire you.”
“I knew it was bad, and I made some changes that were supposed to take care of most of the issues, but shit.” I toss the stack of index cards (rubber-banded together, of course) at him. It hits that fine chest of his and drops to the floor. “How could you let me write this? There is no tension. Plenty of conflict–in about six scenes.” I fail to suppress a sigh. “I was planning to turn this in by the end of the month. There’s no way I can turn this in to anyone, least of all my writing teacher.”
He picks the stack of cards off the floor and settles into the recliner beside me. “Isn’t that why you decided to try this method to begin with?” he asks, waving the stack at me before tossing it into my lap. “To look at each scene and make sure each one had enough action, relationship, information, suspense, and emotion? You haven’t even done that yet, have you?”
“I don’t need to do that. I already know it sucks.” And looking at each scene illustrated just how much suspense and tension the story lacks.
“You need to do that, love.” My Muse finishes his coffee and tosses the cup into the trash bin beside the mini-fridge. “That’s how you determine what each scene is lacking.”
“Scene? Hell, the whole damn story is boring.” I bounce my head against the back of the recliner. Yes, childish, I know, but I don’t care. “I’ve been hearing how much people like my book, the amount of tension and suspense, how they couldn’t put it down. The pacing.” Bounce. “This book doesn’t have that.”
“It’s a different book, love.”
“With the same main characters.” Pretty sure this is what they call “imposter syndrome”. “It needs to be at least as good as the first one.”
He looks at me with his gorgeous blue eyes. “How many second movies in a series are as good as the first one?”
“Really?” I roll my eyes. “Shouldn’t it be, how many second books in a series are as good as the first one? Lots. I’ve read lots of series, and nine times out of ten, the second book is as good as the first, if not better.”
He narrows his eyes at me. “So, how are you going to fix it?”
I sigh. A big. Long. Sigh. “That’s why I called you. I’ll have to tell my writing teacher I won’t make the end-of-March deadline, but I don’t want to push the deadline back too much. I have to fix this before I let her look at it.”
His turn to sigh. “Okay, love.” He cracks his knuckles. “Let’s get to it, then. Where’s the brainstorming bucket?”
And that’s pretty much how my week went. Do you ever struggle with suspense and tension in a book? Any suggestions? I’m reverting to my “what if” and “what is her greatest fear” tools. As in, “what if this happens, then what?” and “what is she afraid of losing?” (see, I did pay attention in writing class 😀 ) It helps. It helps even more that everything has dried up enough so it isn’t muddy; it means I can walk without wearing my snow boots (which make my feet hurt after the first mile), which helps my brainstorming process.
Back to the drawing/writing board.