I’ll admit it: I’m addicted to drama. I was giving the Dagger Trilogy a full read-through before I dive into revisions, and a lot of the scenes just seemed dramatic for the sake of being dramatic. So, I devised an exercise to help me get my head around precisely what adds that kind of tension to a scene.
Here’s the exercise, if anyone else wants to try it:
Open the document, choose a random scene.
Rewrite the scene as being completely over the top dramatic.
Rewrite the scene again as being completely underplayed.
Compare the two.
Some things I learned over the week by doing this:
Binge drama is actually really refreshing. I’m not saying I would actually use these scenes (most were pretty ridiculous) but in the privacy of one’s own Craft Work document, it’s nice to just let go once in a while. It kind of helped to get it out of my system.
It was much harder to write the underplayed scene. Which, I suppose, speaks volumes about me as a writer. But I felt like I learned a lot more from the second scene, while the first was primarily cathartic. As I rewrote the scene, I had to actively search for ways to drop the tension out of the scene. I found that if I had characters make a decision quickly, that instantly dropped the dramatics of the scene. I took out multiple options. I didn’t allow them to be nervous about what the others would think. And yeah, the scenes were wickedly boring, but by actively taking out these elements I was able to better define what adds that suspense and mystery.
I had way more description in the second scene. I’m not sure what to make of that observation really. Should I limit the amount of description overall because it slows a book down? I mean… you need that, right?
Not everything has to be a life or death situation. Every single one of my overdramatic scenes involves characters reflecting on their own mortality. That’s something I’m going to keep in mind in revisions. I think those scenes have their place, but right now I have too many of them and they drown each other out. I need to figure out where scenes like that would be most valuable, and which scenes could be toned down a little.