Don’t you hate it when you’re “into” a good TV show and it cuts off at the most crucial part of the scene? The announcer says “stay tuned for next week’s show,” and you want to fling a shoe at him. Come on, you haven’t felt that way? Well, I have and that means the writer did his job to perfection.
Leaving me hanging, keeping me in suspense, keeping me tuning in week after week is what keeps a show on the air and that’s what you want to accomplish with your story.
As you write, think of each scene of your story as a weekly TV show. You want to excite your readers. You want to keep them turning those pages, day after day, hour after hour.
A few key words to remember are: conflict- suspense- drama – surprise – resolution.
Think domino effect.
Leaving off in the middle of a scene, without any kind of resolution, creates drama: drama creates suspense: suspense creates intrigue and intrigue curiosity. Seize the reader’s curiosity and you’ll nab your reader’s attention.
Another important thing to remember: As often as you can, open a scene, or end, with a “hook.”
In my historical time travel, Roy, a reporter, is driving up a steep mountain road. His thoughts are on my heroine and her whereabouts. I open the scene with this hook:
She was in trouble. His sixth sense had never failed him before. It was one of those unexplainable things that was a part of him. His reporter’s instinct, he always called it.
I decrease the tension flow by having him think about a conversation he had with someone about my heroine. Every now and then, I’ll throw in a key word which will suggest tension. As he’s drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, the radio announcer is talking about the “strange” weather they are having.
I end the scene and the chapter with this hook:
A blast of hot air wafted across the side of his face. As heavy and as thick as honey, it sent prickly goose bumps up the nape of his neck. Strange, this weather – hot and sunny one minute, stormy the next. As strange as the strong feeling tugging at his gut that something bad was about to happen.
Hopefully the reader will want to turn to the next chapter to find out what happens next.
Don’t be quick to resolve the conflict in the immediate chapter. Readers have a good memory and if your closing “hook” is strong enough, they’re not likely to forget where you left off; in fact, they’ll be looking for “what happens next,” with anticipation and hopefully with bated breath. It isn’t until nine pages later that we’re back to Roy to find out if he’s in danger.
Withholding information is a good way to keep readers intrigued. I love a twist of an ending, making the reader think one thing and then bam! However, hints at the concealed information must be planted throughout the story. If the “surprise” is revealed out of the blue, the reader will feel cheated. Plant your secrets carefully so that the reader doesn’t feel unfairly gulled and disappointed.
Surprise endings force the reader to go back and think about your character – to think about the character’s actions, and to perhaps look at them in a new light. And isn’t that what every writer strives to achieve?
Surprise endings, twists, either in a scene or at the end of your story, are powerful ways to keep those readers coming back not only to each chapter, but hopefully to each and everyone one of your books.
Now I am going to talk love scenes
A love scene is…
A tango – a give and take – a push and pull both emotionally and physically.
A love scene in your story can move the plot, add interest, add tension and complications.
Just like in real life, your characters take the chance of rejection and embarrassment and so it’s likely there would be some kind of tension that comes along with attraction.
Think: two fighters in a boxing ring, both dancing around one another, trying to figure out just what would happen if: she leaned in closer, if he brushed a piece of lint from her shoulder, if they kiss, if she told him she loved him.
Most of us, when we first meet someone we are attracted to, won’t jump right in and show how we feel. We’d make a move and see where it leads. Hopefully he’ll take that hint and move with it – or not; thus the push and pull of your story.
It’s important to keep your characters true to themselves. If your heroine is the type to jump right in with everything she does, consequences be damned, then she just might take that risk and tell him upfront how she feels. If a man is the: “my life is private and no one’s allowed in” type, even during a love scene he wouldn’t be all “talkie” about his feelings. Where she might be a bit nervous and talk even more, he’d clam up even tighter.
That doesn’t mean he’s not thinking how beautiful she if, how soft, how wonderful. And she may be thinking, am I nuts? Yes, he’s a hunk, but what am I doing? He’s my boss! Thinking conflicting thoughts while making love creates tension, that dance around the ring that makes the reader want to know what happens next. Will that touch lead to love? Will they make love again? Will they stay together?
Remember to use your five senses. When you are in love, the air smells fresher, the sunsets are more vibrant, food tastes better, birds sing a sweeter song and the roses he just sent you feel like heaven. Well maybe not, but you get the idea.
Here’s a recipe for turning a relationship into something a little more permanent:
2 cups attraction
2 cups friendship
1 quart of communication
1 cup of respect mixed with a pinch of courtesy
1 pint of trust
½ cup of support
a dash of compromise
1 quart of forgiveness
a whole handful of affection combined vigorously with as much sex as you can get
Combine all ingredients slowly. Simmer then heat until steamy.
Many good years together.
Written by: Marianne Petit
Marianne Petit is a past President of the Long Island Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Her love of writing stems back to high school. She spent hours reading Nancy Drew, Alfred Hitchcock and historical romances. At the age of fifteen, she wrote a short story for children, as well as numerous works of poetry. Her love of history stems from her father, Roger, a Frenchman, whose love of American history greatly influenced her writing interests.
Newsday and several local newspapers have written articles on Ms. Petit and she was interviewed on TV for her first book, a time travel entitled: A Find Through Time.
Since then she has had two other books published: Rebecca’s Ghost, a southern historical and Behind the Mask, a fantasy. All her books are available on her website and through major retailers such as –
She is a past President of the Melville Lions club, a service organization that raises money for the less fortunate – especially the sight impaired.
She loves to ski, raft, horseback ride, and enjoys the theater.
Marianne lives on Long Island and is happily married for 33 years. She has two sons, a daughter-in-law and a new grandson.
In reality she could never be.
In a land where creatures shape-shift, a blind man sees, and where believing in your gut’s instinct can save a life a Herculean hero matches wits with a beautiful huntress.
Cyrenne’s life is pledged in servitude to the deity of the forest. She believes in obeying the deities, remaining chaste and that her abilities, as a warrior, are better than any man. When she catches the attention of the Storm Deity, and refuses his offer of immortality, he punishes her by besetting fear upon her. Her comrades die when she is unable to fight. She swears she shall not return home until she proves herself worthy and she sets out on a journey of redemption.
Gareth has always hated the Upland deities. He has no use for a woman dedicated to them, and who looks better in armor than most men. He believes his gut instinct is always right, the deities are always wrong and a woman’s place is in the home, any home but his. When the spirited woman with the iron resolve saves his life, they set out on a journey that takes them through uncharted territories where love teeters on the edge of danger.