Story Time

Minutemen. Women don't appreciate them. Maybe hookers do. Turn over is money. Hey. Sometimes men have a dry spell and...oops. Did I do that?

This past weekend I was working with my writing group where we critique each other’s pages. Commercial break: Listen to a hilarious podcast where we talked about our group dynamics and workshopping our books.

One of our authors is writing an urban fantasy. I read an action sequence that took place in the main character's apartment. She's fending for her life and is losing badly. Using her telepathy, she calls for help. Her friend responds, telling her to hold on, and that she was almost at the apartment. For me the tension of that action sequence lost it's hard on. Or maybe I lost my hard on.

And, no. I'm not a minuteman.

During our workshop, I suggested to the author that he remove the telepathic dialogue because it deflates the tension. He said that the main character's friend had already told her that she was coming by at the beginning of the scene. That’s right. He had a really good point.

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Still, I was bothered because my reaction was so visceral. I wasn't looking at it from a structural point of view. I racked my head. I literally put my head down on the pool table and put the triangle thingy over it. OK. No, I didn't.

A day or two later I came across an article titled: A Quiet Place: Who Are The Monsters? Such a great movie. And the writing kicks ass. Figuratively. Can't see how it would literally. 

The producers of the film discussed at length when to reveal the monster. They feared that they might have shown it too soon. In reality the film doesn't show the alien in full view until the last seven minutes. They wanted to delay showing the monster for as long as they could. Eureka! There was my answer. I figured out why my hard on had deflated. Not during the movie. Nor did I have one in the theater. That would be weird while watching a horror flick. I'm referring to my hard on figuratively.

In the pages that I had read, the character who is coming over was on the way before the action sequence happened. The main character is getting ready in her apartment when her attacker knocks on her door. She opens it, thinking it's her friend. The attacker pounces, and she fights for her life. Even though we know her friend is on the way, we don't know how far away she is. We know her pace wouldn't be urgent because she doesn't know how dire things have become. We don't know how long it'll take for her to arrive. Even if the main character calls for help telepathically, having the rescuer not respond can increase the tension in the reader. We're left wondering: What's happened? Where is her friend? What's taking so long?

Time is such a great tool. Delaying things can extend and heighten tension. Delaying pleasure can make the reader anxious. People love story because of the rollercoaster ride of life, even if we wouldn't want it literally.