Raise your hand if you′ve been on a roller coaster before! Hehehe, I′m just kidding. It′s the internet, I can′t see you raising your hand! Trust me, if I could set up spy cameras around you, it would be in the shower...not next to your laptop! ::Giggles::
Seriously, though...when riding a roller coaster, you experience certain peaks and valleys. You slow down in certain sections of the ride, left anticipating the next big ′dip′ with baited breath...and then everything speeds up and races through whatever loops and scream-inducing tricks you′ve got planned for your riders to go through. Roller coasters don′t just take you up into the Stratosphere and then let you race all the way down to the bottom in one fell swoop. I mean, that might be exciting for some, but...change it up a little bit, you know? A few twists and turns, a few loops, some variety! I think it just makes for a fun, and ultimately more realistic, experience in the stories we write.
Try this exercise for a week...
Starting on a Monday, take notes on everything that you did for that day. What you did, what you had for breakfast, interesting conversations you had, maybe some drama that you experienced...whatever. Just take notes, detailing your life for seven days in a row, and look at that list when you′re finished.
What happened during the last week of your life? Was there a huge betrayal of your trust? Was there an explosion at work? Was there a screaming match between you and a co-worker where somebody had a drink thrown in their face and turned over a dinner table in a public restaurant? I mean, the big theatrics are really entertaining in some stories...but is that real life? Or is that a reality show on prime time TV?
When I′m writing, even though I have a virtual FLOOD of ideas that I want to add into the plot to really make everything exciting and addictive and a ′roller coaster′ ride for everyone reading...I have to be aware of the reality of the situation. And that is this...
A story can′t be ALL drama, ALL the time! Hehehe, it just can′t. It can′t be all sex, it can′t be all action, it can′t be all horror, it can′t be all misery. I can remember when I first started writing...I wanted to write the sexiest, most explosive, stories ever made! Hehehe! But...that gets old SO fast if you don′t vary things up a bit with some character development from time to time. If you read my earliest stories, there was sex in every chapter. Sure, I tried to create a decent story to go along with it...but after a few chapters in each story, I mean...how many ways is there for the characters get ′naughty′ with one another? How many ways are there for me to describe the act? And if you have sex in every chapter, it becomes predictable and almost meaningless. For me, ″On The Outside″ was the first story on the site where sex didn′t happen in the very first chapter. That broke the mold. I took more time on the story and the characters and the conflict between being ′in′ or ′out′ of the closet. Most of my writing took a left turn after that. It was much closer to what I wanted to write in the first place. Stories where sex wasn′t the centerpiece of the story, but a fun little bonus to the romance involved.
With some of my other stories, I included a lot of ′soap opera′ type drama, which was always fun and challenging and I had a ton of fun with it...but even then, I had to learn that there have to be moments of normalcy in the text in order to make the drama stand out when it happened. If you′re writing a story, and somebody is dealing with a major tragedy EVERY single chapter, or a massive heartbreak, or an explosive secret, or the main character is blowing up an oil refinery...whatever...then, chances are, you′re going to exhaust your audience pretty quickly. How long can you keep up that pace and still captivate your readers′ attention? It works fine if you′re writing a short story or a mini-series that only lasts two or three chapters tops. But if you′re writing anything longer than that, it can become tiresome. Peaks and valleys are needed to provide a much needed change up to your narrative. It can sometimes feel like you′re losing momentum, or that you′re getting distracted from your massive ′push′ to reach the next big gasp moment in your story...but, trust me...stories work better when you introduce a little bit of downtime between jaw-dropping events. It′s one of the many things that I′ve learned along the way through trial and error.
Now, this is not a green light to find ways to slow down your story or get off topic when you′re writing. One thing you don′t want to do is waste your readers′ time! The best way for me to describe the big scenes in your story is to imagine it like the sentences you write in every paragraph. Every paragraph can′t be a joke or a ′zinger′. Build up to your key moments with a few sentences so the punchline has a bigger impact. Then...you settle down a bit to finish your thought, and begin building up to the next moment. Does that make sense?
I definitely love writing stories where secrets are exposed, or where big break ups happen, or when extremely erotic scenes take place between characters. I love angst, I love scandal, I love action, and everything that comes along with it. But how can I expect those moments to have any real effect when I deliberately try to find ways to forcefully shove them into every single chapter that I write? Hehehe, it′s like watching a movie where an unknown character gets killed and you scream, ″Oh no! Not...′that guy′! Whoever the hell he is!″
Take your time. Think about how powerful you want your big moments to be. If you write a story where two guys become romantically involved in the first chapter, they′re having sex and moving in with one another in second chapter, and then he′s cheating on him in the third chapter, and then there′s a murder plot in the fourth chapter...ummm...unless your chapters are REALLY long and super descriptive in nature, I would say that things are moving a bit fast in my opinion. That′s a lot to handle in four chapters, and I′m not saying that I′m not guilty of it myself, because I most definitely am! Hehehe! Like I said, it takes time and practice and patience to get to a place where your writing instincts will tell you otherwise. Know when to push forward and when to reign it in a little bit. Give your readers a breather. Let them connect to your cast as though they were living the same kind of lives that you′re living in your seven days worth of notes. Chances are, they′ll relate better to your story, and it′ll come off as being a close representation of their lives too.
Remember, reader connection is fifty percent of the effort when sharing your art with an open audience. Don′t just put it on display...include them. They′re a part of this too.
So...keep in mind that I′m definitely not asking you to write nonsense or unnecessary filler to break up those big dramatic scenes that you might be so anxious and fired up to write and put out there for a big crowd reaction. That feels great for a while, but I′m telling you...it′s not sustainable. That gimmick will eventually wear thin. And if you don′t have likeable, well developed, characters and a decent story behind those ′soap opera′ moments...things can go South really fast for stories like that. Not for ALL stories, but I′ve seen it happen more times than not.
Anyway, I hope this article was a little food for thought! As always, these are all things that I′ve learned through years of trying to get it right! Hehehe, and I′m still not quite there yet, but there a few steps of trial and error that you can skip over if you know about the possible hindrance ahead of time! So good luck! And I′ll see you guys next weekend!