Monday, January 18, 2010

Tension in Every Scene: Even the Happy Ones

Tip of the Day: Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I hope you're one of the lucky ones with the day off.

I'm writing a book with a romance subplot that isn't going to go well for my main character. At first I envisioned the romance starting out wonderful and deteriorating over the course of the novel, but a couple of influences changed my mind. This blog post by Mary Kole struck a chord with me, with its easy to understand graphic of starting a novel at a baseline and having life get a little better for the protag before it gets way, way worse.

The other big influence is my friends at Verla Kay's blue boards. Someone else began a thread about starting a book with a perfect romance or giving it a few chapters to develop. Writers chimed in with opinions and book titles, and the general consensus was that most people like to see a romance develop: it's part of the fun of reading.

So now I'm writing scenes in chapters 1 and 2 where my main character is falling in love. These are easier to write than I thought they would be, but we'll see what my critique group says about them! They're kind of fun, but they'd be boring if they didn't have any tension. I don't want them to be the equivalent of your BFF from high school telling you for hours on end about how her boyfriend is soooo cute. So what gives a scene tension where my main character is realizing the guy she's always wanted is falling for her?

  • Am I imagining this or does he think we're still just friends?
  • I want to be supportive of his plans for the future, but those plans will take him away from me.
  • Why doesn't he realize that I need someone to support me right now?
  • I wish I could help him with the problems in his life more than I actually can.

So even though my characters are holding hands and sharing their dreams and deepening their relationship, it's not all chocolate and roses and angels singing. The other problems in their lives can't help but intrude. But as every 16-year-old like my main character knows, all the problems are worth suffering through in exchange for true love. Until chapter 4 or 5, bwa ha ha ha.

What keeps your "they're so in love" scenes crackling with tension?

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


Lisa Schroeder said...

I think, for me, secrets the main character is holding, goes a long way. The secret(s) don't have to be big, but it keeps the reader wondering, is she going to tell him or not?

Glad you WIP is going well!!

Kate Fall said...

Secrets are definitely good! I always feel like yelling at characters in books, "Just tell him already!"

Christina Farley said...

Oh this is a great post. I totally agree. In fact, that's one of the reason's why I like Eclipse. I loved the fact that they were in love with each other but everything- including themselves- was pulling them apart. The idea of finding your soulmate is what everyone dreams about isn't it?