Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Drama has weight

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Nov• 06•23

“Fall back” finds me awake in the middle of the night with rain deluging down as if the clouds are seriously pissed off.

I’ve been thinking about the ingredients in writing thrillers and what can be left out of stories. Stories that clip along at a brisk pace, and are based heavily on action scenes and thrills won’t feature a lot of inner dialogue. Your proganist’s thoughts might be wonderment, inappropriate name calling,  or cussing up a storm as she bails out the sinking boat. With a soda can.

There will be little ‘toing and froing’ such as walking across rooms, turning on faucets, choosing an outfit to wear, getting into cars and such. Now naturally there are exceptions, such as the undercover agent slipping into all black for a night stakeout or checking under his car for explosive devices. But featuring your protagonist waking up to an alarm and stretching and thinking about coffee–not so much. Waking covered in blood with amenesia?  One of these things is not like the other.

In fiction there are two kinds of events or actions—the natural and the dramatic. Natural actions are the common ones that happen during an ordinary day—eating breakfast, weeding the garden, shopping for groceries, give the kids a bath. Mostly they don’t belong in fiction, especially fast-paced genres. There’s little at stake—burning the bacon or forgetting your shopping list at home happen. And while you might get irate because you really love bacon, or you arrive home from shopping without milk or eggplants, readers aren’t going to care.

Dramatic events are the ones that propel the story forward, reveal character, and deepen conflict. Dramatic events must carry more weight in the story and take up substantially more space because they deliver—thrills, chills, and twists. Which means emotional involvement in the reader.  Now if a murderer is on the loose and you spot him lurking in your back yard and burn breakfast because you dashed around the house to lock the doors and dial 911, then you’ve got drama. Same as being followed home from the grocery store by a creepy stranger or answering the phone and your toddler slips in the tub…

Keep writing, keep dreaming, choose wisely

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