My WIP’s Fourth Revision
Suspense Scenes – Part One
I’m so tired of hurting every time I move.
And I’m off the good pain stuff. Just Motrin now. Oh well.
I plunged on into Suspense Scenes. And…no…I did not see some little guy with a big nose and a bigger belly.
What did I change?
I’ve talked about suspense scenes in other posts. I have forty suspense scenes, the second largest scene type in my WIP, for this go around. Some time ago I refined my checklist for Dramatic Scenes, which was easy to do since I already had text to work with.
I tried to be systematic about revising each scene. I started with my scene summary. Here is an example:
S56 – Therefore At Deheya’s insistence, Grimn searches for proof that Li Van is in league with Christor. SUSPENSE – GOTCHA – Grimn must flee to avoid capture by Li Van’s men.
In my checklist I copied the gotcha in at the top of my checklist — Grimn must flee to avoid capture by Li Van’s men. And this became the point to which I drove the scene.
Then I went to work on my opening, paragraphs, aiming to set up immediate concern that the POV was in some peril. My note read like this: Grimn is trying to solve the puzzle of the missing messengers sent by Deheya to River Bend…and it has such a hold on him that he is still trying to solve it while the Loyalist Army is moving into position for a major battle with Christor’s army.
The next thing to consider, right up in the beginning, was creating a suspenseful mood with setting and sensory details. So I wrote some more notes: He is down on the riverfront where it’s unsafe to leave a horse unattended, and everything is rotting in decay and moldering away.
Once we got down into the heart of the scene, I had to put my POV character in jeopardy. So, I wrote this note: Disreputable types fill this riverfront tavern, and there are few exits if he must leave in a hurry.
Next up, I wanted up the emotional ante and add complications. So I wrote this note: Grimn realizes Deheya’s suspicions are well founded and, while she is a disempowered diva, she has put her finger on the problem of Li Van’s loyalty.
Finally, we arrive at the GOTCHA, the point where circumstances launch the POV into a new course of action. I wrote this note: Li Van gets proof Li Van will betray the Loyalist army, but Li Van’s men break into the tavern to capture him.
The light-bulb moment for me was what GOTCHA meant, and how it is different than the DRAMATIC DECISION. The POV character has no choice, no decision to make at the end of the scene. So, I set aside the SEQUEL part of Jack Bickham’s SCENE-SEQUEL construct. One of the key parts to the SEQUEL is an emotional reaction by the POV followed by a decision on what to do next. In the SCENE, I take the POV character into a perilous situation, then spring the trap. And, instead of letting them digest what happened and figure out what to do next, I send them running.
I used this basic structure nineteen times. I still have twenty-one to go.
How I would love to finish the remaining scenes and move on to the special scenes.