Friday, June 29, 2012

Turning an Idea into Story: Pump up the Drama

I talked last week about how I expanded The Ghost on the Stairs, to match Aladdin’s series guidelines. I added complications, and about 70 pages. 

The editor read those revisions, but found a new problem. Some scenes lacked drama. He wanted it spookier, with the ghost more active. 

I realized that some of my “detective” scenes didn’t directly involve the ghost at all. For example, I had the kids do research in the public library. They find information, and leave, with no drama. To keep the ghost involved, I moved their research session to the hotel’s business center and added this dramatic chapter ending. 

    [Tania] went out. I have to admit, I was glad to be alone for awhile…. It felt good to forget about ghosts and sisters and responsibilities, and just do regular stupid stuff.
    Then I heard the scream.

This gave me a cliffhanger, and also inspired some new and dramatic action for the next chapter.
When adding complications, make sure the complications make the plot more interesting, rather than slowing it down. Complications should be dramatic, scary or emotional. 

Avoid repetition in nonfiction as well. For Milton Hershey: Young Chocolatier (Childhood of Famous Americans series, written as M.M. Eboch), I portrayed his first bankruptcy in tragic, emotional detail. I knew the second one wouldn’t have as much impact, so I skimmed over it quickly and moved Milton on to new challenges.

Tip: Use variations on a theme. Don’t just repeat the same old argument between your hero and heroine or provide an identical example of your villain’s villainy. Add a twist, so it will feel fresh. 

If you have similar scenes, place them in order from the easiest to hardest challenge, or add increasing stakes, such as time running out. Save the biggest confrontation for the climax.

Example: In Haunted Book 1: The Ghost on the Stairs, the kids make three trips to the local cemetery. The first time, they are with their mother in daylight. The second time, it’s dark and stormy, and they are alone. The final time, Tania has been possessed by a ghost. Three cemetery scenes, but each different enough to feel fresh—and each scarier than the last. 

Tip: Give it a twist - new information that changes everything but still makes sense (such as Darth Vader revealing that he’s Luke’s father).

Next week: more tips on how to pack the plot full of action.

Advanced Plotting is packed full of articles on how to make your plot stronger. Get Advanced Plottingon Amazon or B&N in paperback or e-book.

1 comment:

  1. Chris,
    I'm reading your blog for the first time. It's filled with wonderful information. I look forward to reading it each Friday.