Heap On The Tension!

You’ve got a scene.  It’s a nice little bit.  You’re writing about a guy who has to get a shower and do a little bit of emailing and then drive downtown to have an important business lunch.  You write the scene.  Your first draft, and coincidentally, my morning this very morning.  The hero showers, emails, drives, gets to the meeting on time.

 How very dull and boring.  How very first draft.

 Because I’m an above average writer, I wanted to make the scene better.  So I add another layer.  Heaping on the tension.  Here’s the change:

 Just after the character (me) gets out of the shower all fresh and powdered and primped, the cell phone rings and it’s the gas station, telling me they have gotten my gas powered hedge trimmer ready to go.  Oh.  My.  God.  Ratchet up the tension!

 First, you must understand the importance of this business meeting to the character.  The Stakes!  Reeeeeeally important.  Life altering meeting.  After this meeting, everything could change for the hero.  So, being late is NOT an option.

 But, the hero HAS GOT TO GET THE HEDGE TRIMMED because it’s Thursday.  Thursday is the day the guys come to mow the lawn.  If the hedge is trimmed before they get there, THEY will throw away the hedge trimmings.  The hero does not want to spend an hour raking up hedge trimmings and heaving them someplace.  He wants the yard men to do it!  Desire!  Powerful writing technique.

 Now, he has to go to the gas station, come home, trim the hedge (which takes an hour) and rake the trimmings off the hedge into the yard, and then figure out a way to stop sweating and have a second shower, get into the car, drive downtown, while not sweating all over his nice shirt, and get to his CRUCIAL lunch on time.  That’s going to be very very difficult for the hero to do! 

 Suddenly, a boring scene, becomes TENSE AS HELL because another element was added to the scene. 

 By the way, I got to the lunch on time.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Heap On The Tension!

  1. Trip Payne

    What if… before you got out of the shower… the audience saw your wife… and her lover… both cowering under the bed… hiding from you until you either got out of the house or went outside to catch the lawn-guys?

    Sort of like Hitchcock who said he could hold a screen kiss for 2 minutes. When he was asked how, he quietly replied, “But first – I would show the bomb under the bed.”

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