Sunday, February 07, 2010

2010: Day 37 - The Turning Point

Last October I attended a four-hour workshop presented by Donald Maass. I’ve sat through a number of conferences and workshops in the past, but it has been a long time since anyone has aspired to write as much as he did that evening.

Here is one snippet from my notes:

Micro Tension:

All books have dialogue, internal dialogue and exposition. If you find yourself skimming over the passages it’s because you don’t need to read what’s there (not a good sign).

Micro tension is something in an event that makes you want to continue to read and you need at least one micro tension on each page.

Action needs tension:

It’s not the action per say (the chase, the fight, the clap of thunder, or runaway train, etc.,) that causes tension. It’s the internal tension and conflicting emotions that make it: Worry vs. confidence. The tension must be inside the POV character.

I worked on a chapter for the past couple of days; changed the opening a bit—tweaked several paragraphs, the usual edits, but this is a pivotal chapter, an important turn of events for Rhonie Lude. She must use her wit to convince a stranger (a person in power) to agree to do something for her. There is no reason in the world for him to agree to anything, but she has to convince him there is.

In spite of the amount of time I’d spent on it, the key moment—the turning point when Rhonie begins to feel some sense of accomplishment was still missing in action. The thread of dialogue was disjointed—battering back and forth between the characters, going nowhere fast.

I had to ask myself three things: Why is she there? What does she need? And what needs to happen in order for her to get it? What are the consequences if she doesn't?

Once I focused in on these four questions, things started to come into focus.