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Jun 21, 2012

Finding A Character's Voice

I have a neat little thing I'm doing in my wip (Book 5, Wing), which is introducing each chapter with a special scene, told in first person. A few of these scenes show a dramatic event in the character's life. Others simply establish a mood or a central symbol. All introduce us to the interior life of the character, which is what I like about these scenes, and why they are important to the book.

The other thing that I like, but which is also sending me in circles about my own tail, is that there is no faking it in these scenes. Unlike the more standard, third person, plot driven scenes of the novel, characters cannot hide behind their current predicaments to disguise who they truly are. These scenes demand that I know the voice, the history and the deepest concerns of the characters.

This is a problem, because there are one or two I still don't know.

There's one in particular who is hard to catch. I'm rewriting his scene over and over again, in a different voice each time. Sometimes I play with the tense/person too. Does it sound "truer" to his character to speak in a languid drawl, in clipped staccato, in lazy profanity? I haven't found the perfect tone yet.

To help me, I've also been shoveling through other people's books on my shelf, and through public stories on the internet, and poetry, and even old volumes of Mark Twain, not so much for direct inspiration as much as to re-acquaint myself with a diversity of styles and think what defines them. I'm hoping that can help me clarify what defines my character. Hopefully, he won't just come out sounding like Huck Finn. Especially since these days, even Huck Finn isn't allowed to sound like Huck Finn. Do to protests, certain words in his vocabulary have had to be replaced by less obstropolous terms like "zombie."

Huck Finn and Zombie Jim.

Jun 18, 2012

Full of Rape and Adverbs

Every now and then I feel sorry for myself that my novels will never be literary masterpieces. There's that law, passed by Congress, that Tara Maya may not write such things.... Although, after resisting literary literature all through school, I have come to appreciate the genre, I'm still not willing to sacrifice the story I want to tell on the altar of High Culture. My books are much too "full of rape and adverbs," as Elmore Leonard once (through a character) dismissed Romance novels, contemptuously.

However, Janet Fitch's 10 Rules for Writers surprised me. Seven of them, I'd read before, but three were bits of advice that struck me as fresh and useful. Probably none of them are new, but that doesn't make them any less useful. Maybe it's that we are open to hear the advice we need when we are most in need of it. That's a nice thought, at least.

These are the four "rules" I found I needed just now.
1. Write the sentence, not just the story.
Long ago I got a rejection from the editor of the Santa Monica Review, Jim Krusoe. It said: “Good enough story, but what’s unique about your sentences?” That was the best advice I ever got. Learn to look at your sentences, play with them, make sure there’s music, lots of edges and corners to the sounds. Read your work aloud. Read poetry aloud and try to heighten in every way your sensitivity to the sound and rhythm and shape of sentences. The music of words. I like Dylan Thomas best for this–the Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait. I also like Sexton, Eliot, and Brodsky for the poets and Durrell and Les Plesko for prose. A terrific exercise is to take a paragraph of someone’s writing who has a really strong style, and using their structure, substitute your own words for theirs, and see how they achieved their effects.

5. Explore sentences using dependent clauses.
A dependent clause (a sentence fragment set off by commas, dontcha know) helps you explore your story by moving you deeper into the sentence. It allows you to stop and think harder about what you’ve already written. Often the story you’re looking for is inside the sentence. The dependent clause helps you uncover it.

7. Smarten up your protagonist.
Your protagonist is your reader’s portal into the story. The more observant he or she can be, the more vivid will be the world you’re creating. They don’t have to be super-educated, they just have to be mentally active. Keep them looking, thinking, wondering, remembering.

9. Write in scenes.
What is a scene? a) A scene starts and ends in one place at one time (the Aristotelian unities of time and place–this stuff goes waaaayyyy back). b) A scene starts in one place emotionally and ends in another place emotionally. Starts angry, ends embarrassed. Starts lovestruck, ends disgusted. c) Something happens in a scene, whereby the character cannot go back to the way things were before. Make sure to finish a scene before you go on to the next. Make something happen.

Well, I already knew "write in scenes," it's in my Scene Helper (TM). But somethings can't be stressed enough. I also use poetry in my prose, although probably in much clumsier way than Janet Fitch. (To wit, I smuggle in ballads and stanzas into the prose, unannounced. Not TOO often.) What I think she meant was more about letting your prose be lyrical, stripped of cliche (in fact that's another of her rules).

So what was struck me so forcefully? It was the advice: "Write the sentence, not just the story." And the corollary, "Explore sentences using dependent clauses." I know I've read books with just the opposite advice. These are aimed at genre writers, thrillers and science fiction and mystery, and they stress the importance of letting plot drive the story. Never let fancy-schmancy prose muddle the pace or slow the action. That's good advice too. It's also the reason for things like the one-line paragraph. Keep white space on the page; force the reader's eye to dart down the page, chasing down the action.

But it doesn't mean every sentence has to be simple, or never exceed the vocabulary of a Fifth Grade State Standards Test. One thing that drove me crazy with the two books I published traditionally was that the editor told me I could use no more than two semi-colons per book and any words she deemed overly "challenging" were tossed back into the ocean until they grew smaller. Ugh. It's not that I want to use a thousand semi-colons, or smother my readers in polysyllabic words, but I hate feeling I must dumb down my syntax or vocabulary just because I am writing in a certain genre.

There was a time when I told myself I would polish every sentence like a jewel. Too often, I lose sight of that pride in my work. Too often, I lose confidence in my right to write right. That is when writing a scene becomes an assembly line rather than an art. When I let myself delight in the scene, sentence by sentence, I recover the missing spirit of the scene that eludes me if I merely throw words around like frisbees.

 * * *

Just for fun, here's a scene from my WIP, Book 5, Wing, with plenty of rape (or at least the threat of it) and adverbs! It's from the point of view of Dindi, who is a captive of Umbral, a Deathsworn warrior with dark magic and deadly plans for her. Worse, he has an enchanted mask which allows him to appear as Kavio, the man she loves.

She tripped over a root she could not see. A strong hand steadied her before she could fall on her face.
“Just a little further,” Kavio murmured reassuringly. Except it was not him.
Damn him. Damn Umbral.
She wrenched her arm free. “Don’t touch me!”
Dindi pulled away, staggered over another root, and ran smack into a tree.
Umbral picked her up and swung her over his shoulder. He carried her that way the rest of the walk.
She heard a multitude of groans, as if arising from a crowd. The air stank of blood and rotting flesh. The Deathsworn barked orders and the groans swelled.
Umbral set her down on a log. He loosed the blindfold. Light confused her eyes. Another sunrise had overtaken them. The reflection off the snow hurt. Gradually she made out a circle of black trees surrounding a square of four big black stones. The clearing before the square of Deathsworn menhirs was completely filled with rows of the dead and dying.
There were so many.
The dead were already in jars, and there were enough of them. But the wounded. Oh, the wounded.
Green Woods warriors thrashed on the ground, some with braided beards, some no more than pink-chinned boys. Orange Canyon warriors clutched their ram’s horn helms and howled like infants. A handful of Tavaedies had been grouped together, more or less with their body parts. Missing legs, missing arms, missing heads. Bodies torn to shreds by talons, bodies smashed to jelly by being dropped by flying Raptors. There were Raptors there too, and wolves, both groups human at last in death.
Umbral brushed the wet streak off her cheek.
“This is my work,” he said softly. “I will leave you here, but you still wear my leash.”
A pulse of energy flowed through the black shimmering cord, which caused exquisite pleasure to bolt through her limbs. Dindi cried out in surprise, then clamped her jaws to keep from moaning.
She glared at him. “Stop toying with me.”
“It’s a warning,” he said. “Through the leash, I can make you feel bliss. I can make you feel pain just as easily. Don’t make me show you the other side by doing something stupid.”
The Deathsworn “worked” all morning—which is to say, they killed people. The Deathsworn began their ritual with a dance. After that, one by one, they brought the injured to the four stones, one of which was laid flat, like the altar where Umbral had first tied Dindi. Then Umbral or one of the others butchered the humans as a hunter would butcher a kill: slit the throat, drain the blood, remove the head, quarter the limbs. The parts were placed in empty jars, which waited beyond the tree circle.
Dindi forced herself to watch. This was what Umbral would do to her.
If she let him.
The day never warmed, exactly, but the cold bit less savagely. Umbral removed his headdress, cloak, and tunic. Though his breath made misty swirls in front of him, he stripped to just black leather pants and black leather gloves. His naked chest gleamed with sweat. Kavio’s glorious torso, Kavio’s gentle hands, bent to a purpose Kavio would have abhorred. That thief, that bastard. One body after another he lifted to the stone. One throat after another he slit.
Once, he looked up just as she was staring hard at him. His muscular arms were stained crimson past the elbow. She could no longer see the black gloves. He looked gloved in gore. Flecks of brain and intestine splattered his bare chest.
He met her eyes. Something flickered in him, and she had the oddest sense that he felt…humiliated…for her to see him like this. Or ashamed?
Then his lips curled up in a sardonic smile.
She was sure she had imagined it. If anything, he was proud of his “work.”
Yet, at times, he did not cut. “This one is not ready for our Lady,” he said of a warrior who had lost a foot and looked delirious with pain. Instead of killing the man, Umbral waved his hands over the man’s aura. Dindi saw a flash of golden light, and she realized with amazement that Umbral was healing him. The stump bled less. The man fell asleep.
“Leave him past the trees with our marks,” Umbral ordered the two other male Deathsworn.
He spared a few others as well. To Dindi, it was not obvious why he spared some and killed the rest, any more than it was obvious why he had changed his mind about killing her right away.
The two male Deathsworn sent to place a Green Woods woman outside the menhir clearing returned on a path that passed the log where Dindi sat. One of them, the ugly one who had leered at her when she was still tied to the other altar, lingered.
“What are you doing, Masher?” his companion, already ahead, called back. “We have another two dozen or more left. Don’t think I’ll do your share for you.”
“I have to yellow some snow. Go on, Owlhawker, I’ll catch up.”
Owlhawker grumbled but returned to the rows of injured. There were fewer bodies now, and more had stiffened before they could be lifted to the menhir.
Masher did not duck behind a tree to attend private business. Instead, he sauntered closer to Dindi.
“I don’t get it,” he said. “Your aura is skinnier than an old woman in a drought, but when I am close to you, I feel powerful. You taste real good…”
She would have moved away, but as soon as she stood up, pain jolted through the leash. She crashed to her knees from the electric agony. The flash of pain was brief, but delayed her long enough that Masher reached her side and grabbed her hair.
He jerked her onto the log and forced her on her back, with his own body splayed over her. He stank of offal.
“I could save your life,” he wheezed in her ear. One of his clammy, soiled hands rummaged inside her fur cape, which, since she’d had to remake it, was held together only by improvised knots between the rabbit skins. Fingers pinched her nipple. “I’ll let you run away, if you’re nice to me first.”
 All at once, Masher flew off her into the air. He smashed against a nearby tree.
Umbral, in a towering fury, stomped toward the man he had just thrown like a ragdoll. He grabbed Masher by the front of his jerkin and scraped him up against the tree.
“I’ve slit a lot of throats today, goat’s ass. It makes no difference to me if I slice open one more. My gloves are already dirty.” 

* * *

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Jun 13, 2012

Scene Helper

How's that new outline method working out? (I forgot to tell you, I've dubbed it "Scene Helper.TM"*)

Awesome, thank you.

At least for the material that I've already written for Wing.

I've had insights into what I need to edit, external vs. internal action and the problem of empty characters. If I were a better blogger, I'd make each of these its own topic and schedule them for days when I don't write any posts, but I'm honestly too lazy. I'm just going to throw it all at you, and you can re-read it during the next three month period I neglect my blog. (Uh huh, Tara, that's how to build traffic. Woohoo!)

Outlining To Edit

So, yeah, I went back and retroactively applied it to all the scenes I've written so far. In that sense, it was a good aide to planning edits. For one thing, I could see clearly that I'd left out any smells, sounds, tastes and touches, and sometimes even any visual descriptions, out of about two thirds of my scenes. Oy.

On the bright side, by playing around with the order of the scenes in the outline, I was able to overcome a problem which has been plaguing me since I started working on Wing. One of the reasons this book is taking me so long is that (a) it was coming out to be about 100,000 words, or twice the length of Initiate, and (3) I need to make sure the story arc flows smoothly from Wing to the next book, Blood, so am I also working on Book 6 at the same time.

One of the things I saw in my outline was that I was trying to stuff too much action into Wing and not leaving enough of the relationships started in Wing more time to mature in Blood. So I found a way to cut Wing from 100,000 words to 80,000 words. It's not that I tossed those 20,000 words -- they aren't fat (well, MOST of them aren't fat), but I think they will work better in Blood.

The real test will come over the next day or two as I apply the outline to Blood. That book is a mess, which is sad, since in an earlier draft of this series, it used to be one of the strongest sections. But as I've revised, I've pulled out this bit and that bit, to give to other books, earlier and later, and now Blood is anemic.

External and Internal Action Arcs

By the way, I thought of another two categories I might want to add to my scene: External Action and Internal Action. Not every scene is strong on both. Not every scene should be strong on both.

Dem's fightin' words, so let me explain.

Battling Internal Demons

External Action could be mundane ("They journey through the boglands and reach a lakeshore") or battle-packed ("The bog mummy drags Dindi toward the water.") The seemingly dull scenes, those with less external action, are often the same ones with the strongest Internal Action. That's not surprising. While Dindi and Umbral are battling a bog mummy, they aren't going to have time for Deep Thoughts. It's in the quiet scenes before and after that they converse and clash. For instance, the fight with the mummy, while it brings them together temporarily during the fight, drives them further apart philosophically. They each come out more convinced than ever that the power the other represents must be stopped. At any cost.

Battling external demons

A book with predominantly Internal Action will be "literary" (or else very boring). A book with predominantly External Action will be an adventure or thriller (or else very boring). Poorly written fantasy books read like the transcription of a D&D campaign, the novelization of a Scifi Monster of the Week movie. (*Shudder*), with the heroes battling a baddie every chapter, but not much else. A fight scene without a emotional stakes turns punches into yawns. On the other hand, I fear I lack the writing talent to make 5000 words about a man falling out of a chair riveting. (To see Scott Bailey pull off this feat delightfully, see here -- you have to look in the Comments for the actual excerpt. It's gorgeous. Ah, Literary Lab, how I miss you!)

Empty Characters

Meanwhile, the outline of Wing has helped shine a light on another problem with my draft, which is empty characters. I've been aware of this problem for along time. It's bugged me, but I've felt helpless to fix it. The outline reminded me that the longer I put off fixing this, the harder it will be to fix at all.

Empty characters occur when you don't have a good fix on a character. They're just sort of blank. They move around and talk and may even have drives and motives and goals, but they still don't have a clear personality.

Maybe they are plot-born characters. Plot Puppets. They need to be there to serve the plot. But who in Cthulthu's name are these assholes? What makes them different from the other bit players and sidekicks?

There are 3 problems with Empty Characters. 

The first problem is that when I have Empty Characters, I end up drawing them all like me. Don't get me wrong, I do this with my main characters too. Dindi and Kavio both share neurotic characteristics of Yours Truly. But there are things Dindi or Kavio would do that I would not. They are their own people. When I get to a point in the scene where one of them needs to make a decision, I no longer ask, "What would I do?" I ask, "What would Dindi do?"

But with the Empty Characters, I fall back on inserting my own reactions for theirs. It's just the default. Someone called my guy a pig's tail! He might be hurt but smile and shrug and pretend he doesn't mind, because that's what I would do.

But... how stupid. I already know how *I* would respond. I want to know how *he* will respond. If he would do something I never would, like fly into a rage, like snap back, or laugh because he really *doesn't* mind, or maybe he'd feel utterly dishonored and go kill himself.

The second problem with Empty Characters, related to the first, is that they begin to blend together. Every character in the book has a similar personality, because they are all just Authorial Puppets. No, no, no! Begone, Plot Puppets! Cut your strings! Strike out, become works of art, not stamps!

I have a few scenes that I want to completely re-write now, not because they are bad scenes, but because I want to differentiate the characters in them more, to make them distinct, from me, and from each other. It's a little scary, because it may also mean letting some characters be less well behaved, less kind.

Because that's the third problem with Empty Characters. They pull their punches too often. They aren't really a reflection of me, but how I WISH I were, my IDEALIZED reaction: a bit too nice, too clever, too strong, too good, above all TOO MECHANICAL. They don't have enough foibles. And that robs them of the chance to be human. Even the characters who aren't actually human deserve to be full people.

 *No it's not really trade marked. Yet. Don't you hate it when companies trade mark obvious things like that? Well, if Company Who Shall Not Be Named, mainly because I can't remember which one did this, or because they all do, can copyright "online shopping," I can trademark some obvious crap like this. BWAHAHAHAAHAHA!

Jun 11, 2012

Maybe THIS Outline Method Will (Finally) Work

Here's my plan. It's pretty straight-forward.

You know how They Say there's two kind of writers, those who outline methodically and those who fly by the seat of their pants? Outliners and Pantsers.

I'll be darned if I know which one I am. I seem to suck at both. Ugh.

A series of twelve novels is too complicated to just write in one sweet session of red hot inspiration. Or even a bunch of sessions of red hot inspiration. Red hot inspiration is indispensable, but unattainable, if I don't first have some clue about what I'm doing.

Hence, outlines.

The problem is, I don't have much luck with outlines.

"When I let go, sit exactly where I tell you, and don't move.

You can do that, right?"

My scenes are more like cats than dogs. And you know what They Say about herding cats.

I write what seems like a perfectly suitable plan for the novel, only to find halfway in that my outline left out too much crucial detail. Like, where the heck are my characters? How did they get there? Are they there before or after another bunch of characters arrive and do something else there? Logistical stuff. I'm  lousy at it. Even when I tried to write detailed outlines, I seemed to leave the logistics out. That meant when I got around to writing the scene "for real," I would suddenly realize it made no sense. I had to answer basic questions ignored in the outline, and often this sent the whole scene reeling a new direction.

This made the story stronger, ultimately, but it also meant that it was not possible to reach the word count I needed each day. I spent too much time backtracking and second-guessing myself. Sometimes I wanted to poke my eye out with a pen rather than look at the same dumb scene one more time.

But I'm terminally optimistic, so, I have a new plan for how to plan. A meta-plan, if you will.

POV: Character (Third Person, Past Tense)
CHAPTER: B5-C4-S4 - Chapter Title

Now I'll break it down in more detail: 

POV: Character (Third Person, Past Tense)
I have long chapters, almost more like sections, but a lot of short scenes. The majority are close PoV, third person, past tense, but sometimes, to either make the scene feel more intimate or more distant, I shake that up. You know how They Say don't risk annoying your readers with self-indulgent crazy shit that is really only interesting to you, the Writer? Well, I say, screw that! Bring on the crazy! I'll switch to First person, Present Tense or even something outlandish like Second Person, Future Tense. Yeah, there's actually a scene like that in The Unfinished Song: Initiate. Oh, the madness. (Brownie points if you can identify it!)
CHAPTER: Book #, Chapter #, Scene # - Chapter Title
This is important just to remind me where in the series, book and chapter I am. You'd be surprised how often that escapes me.
The Hook is the first line of the scene. Not all my hooks are that great, some just establish who the PoV character is and what he or she is doing. For instance one scene begins simply: Zumo dipped his fingers into the mix of blue powder and rendered fat, which he daubed into careful stripes on his face. This raises at least a modest question, Why is he painting his face? Why is it important to be careful? The first line, or at least the first paragraph of every scene should introduce a person with a problem. In this case, the real stakes aren't revealed until a paragraph or so into the scene:
He strapped on his blue beaded headband and tied it at the back of his head. His room was a fine one, with bright white walls, a blue ceiling with white spots like stars. It was on the third floor so two large windows allowed wind to pass through and cool the room, even when, as now, the afternoon sunlight made the walls and white and blue blankets glow.
He would miss this room if he never saw it again.
“Aren’t you done yet?” His mother Nangi stood in the doorway to his chamber. “Fa, but you are vainer than a virgin bride. How neatly you paint your face isn’t going to impress your uncle.”
“I think it’s a mistake to go,” Zumo said. “Not that you care that he will be as like to eat as feed me.”
“He may kill you,” Nangi agreed.  
Even if I don't exactly know what my first line will be yet, I should know what the problem is for this scene. The outline version of this scene was: "Zumo prepares to attend a feast given by his Uncle, whom Zumo fears may want to punish him."
This is as detailed a synopsis of the scene as I can manage. Sometimes I write out dialogue here too. Or any other juicy bit that occurs to me. I wrote this scrap for a scene with Hadi: In the market, Hadi saw a man offering sheepskin boots. The fluffy white fleece faced inside, to cuddle the foot as gently as a mother snuggled her babe. The skin, tanned and greased, facing outward, repelled water and snow. The thick sole was sewn to the two side-pieces with neat stitches planted like rows of corn. The boots even smelled comfortable. Hadi’s cold, sore feet ached for those boots. A pity he had nothing to barter. Anyway, he was here to make a different kind of trade: A life for a life. Blood for blood. And all that muck.
I like this paragraph because it contrasts what Hadi values (comfort, craftmanship and compassion) with what he has come to this village of his enemies to do, which is take revenge by killing a lot of people. It may or may not make it into the final scene.
Every scene should end on a new cliffhanger. No problem should ever be solved without a new problem being introduced. I admit, I do have a scene that ends with Dindi just falling asleep. But she's sleeping next to her captor who has promised to kill her soon, so it should still be a bit of a cliffhanger, I hope.
If it were a screenplay, who has speaking parts?
And who are the walk-ons?
I know it's weird, but I often have no idea ahead of time WHERE things take place.That's because I'm focused on other important things about the scene, like that one character is about to ambush another.  I have a vague idea, like, "on their journey to..." but that's not too exact. Where the ambush takes place doesn't seem important, until I suddenly try write the scene, and then have to figure out what terrain would work for an ambush. How about a river! Oh, shit, how am I going the ambushers to a river when in the last scene they were crossing a desert?
Another thing that trips me up is not just knowing that they are fighting by a river, but having a vivid sense of what that river is like. I don't want it to come across as just a generic river. The strongest images should also serve double duty as metaphors for the emotion and conflict in the scene. More than one scene can transpire in the same place, but the description should shift with the mood and the PoV of the character seeing it.
So as not to shortchange the other senses, I decided to write reminders to include them right into my outline. Not every scene needs to have these. I'd rather leave out smells in my description than force in artificial smells. Once I caught myself writing on every other page that this thing or that thing smelled of "cinnamon" because that was the only smell I could think of. I re-read it and wondered, "Why the heck would ANYTHING in this scene smell of cinnamon?" 
I confess, I have a terrible sense of smell, so it's hard for me to remember to include it. There's a good reason we have Television, not Telesmell.

Maybe not my best idea ever.

That's it. That's my new outlining method. I think I've probably spent more time blogging about it than using it, soooooooo.... no promises this will actually work.

I know you're all dying to know if this works. I'll keep you updated.

Jun 4, 2012

Each Scene Must Fight Or Die

Each scene in your book must fight for its existence. If you are a writer, you must have no mercy for weak and flabby scenes. Kill them. Now.

Die, boring scenes! Die!

You may think this is cruel. You may feel sorry for those scenes. Don't. What doesn't kill a scene makes it stronger.

Some of those scenes you try to kill will fight back. They will surprise you by proving they are stronger than you ever suspected. They will slam you in the gut with grief. Tickle you with laughter. Send a shiver down your spine.

 If the scene doesn't make you feel something, it shouldn't be there.

Now, I admit that I often put scenes into a book for completely different reasons. I put in scenes because the Plot Requires It.

Plot Requires That the Companions Travel.

Plot Requires That Someone Be Injured.

Plot Requires That Something Bad Happens Here.

But even if a scene sneaks into a novel on such a flimsy pretext, it needs to beef up if it wants to survive to the final cut.

What brought this to mind is a scene in Wing where two characters were falling from the sky to their deaths. It was pretty dull.

You see, Plot Required Characters To Fall From the Sky. So I described characters falling from the sky. But it was mechanical. They might as well have been potatoes falling from the sky.


They are about TO DIE.

Shouldn't I feel something when I read this scene? If I, the author, who love my characters, can't manage to feel something as they plunge tragically to a new existence as human puddles, how can I expect the reader to care?

So I had to re-write the scene.

(There are some writers who don't believe in re-writing. It can get ridiculous. It can be overdone. I may be guilty of both crimes. But sometimes, it's necessary. Sorry. If your draft sucks as badly as mine does, rewriting is required.)

Now, another writer might have approached this differently. My friend, Rayne Hall, who is an expert in scaring the shit out of you, might have gone for evoking Terror. And this was my first thought too, that the scene needed to be more exciting, more frightening.

But that version didn't work either. This time the problem was not that the scene was emotionally flat--it had emotion--it just didn't have the right emotion. I realized that terror was not what this character would actually be feeling. What she would be feeling was something more complicated than that, it would connect her to events earlier in the book, and to characters who weren't even present but who were the most important people in her life.

For me, the scene works better now. It has emotion, the right emotion. Of course, not every reader is going to feel it as I do, but unless I feel something as I write it, I don't believe any readers would be able to connect to the emotion in the scene as they read it.