I wrote recently about a few chapters I was reworking. For a while, I knew I would have to rewrite one of those chapters, if only so the main character could ask more questions. Since he’s an intelligent guy, it’s hard for me to force him to act like a dumb hero just to ask questions.
Eventually, I came up with an idea of how I could get the main character to ask questions and not seem like a fool at the same time.
I had him put a gun on the table.
Since the main character has a slight violent streak and he’s trying to rescue the woman he loves, drawing a gun isn’t unreasonable. It’s still forceful and it adds another streak of tension into a scene that was originally just exposition. The presence of the weapon alone defines the main character more, but it also draws further reactions from the person he’s talking to.
Now, this isn’t to say that the gun will stay on the table. It’s just a way to drive the tension further.
In writing, when is emotional escalation not a good thing. People don’t want to read about dry characters or those with even tempers. Readers are more engaged when they can read about characters who are going through personal trials and dealing with tense situations.
That’s why there’s a three step adage about dealing with characters and making stories tense.
- Put a man in a tree.
- Put tigers around the tree.
- Get the man out of the tree.
What will you use as a gun or a tiger? How will it make your characters react?
Note: I got the last analogy from The Writer’s Little Instruction Book by Paul Raymond Martin. It’s a great book and well worth checking out.