Just read a very interesting article on Kidlit.com about “juicing your emotion” — or, as my writer friends and I tend to call it (and as the writer of the article, Mary Kole, eventually does) “Going There.” Going There is the act of really soaking in the emotional potential of your story. A lot of times, when I read beginning writers, you see that they want to write about something devastating/horrifying/fabulous happening to the writer, but a the last second (especially if it’s a bad thing) they pull back, protecting their characters, protecting themselves, and cheating the reader.
The reader wants to wallow. They are reading your book because they want to feel all the emotions the character is going through.
And Going There is about more than emotion. It’s about setting up the scenes where you are fulfilling this promise. The example Kole uses in her article is about a book where a character has kept a devastating secret from others, though this secret is in danger of being revealed the whole book — and then the character never faces that scene where his secret is revealed. Now you can argue back and forth about whether or not this works — in the example given, it clearly worked just fine for some people (but not Kole).
But too many instances where the bad thing that’s in danger of happening doesn’t happen, and your reader starts to feel that any peril the character is in is fake peril. Let the Bad Thing Happen is part of Going There. In one of my favorite series, MIDNIGHTERS by Scott Westerfeld, one of the defining moments in the series is when Rex gets kidnapped by the Darklings and merged with a Darkling for nefarious purposes. Many years ago, I found out from Scott and his wife Justine that there was an early draft in which the other midnighters saved Rex in the nick of time, but… you know what? That wasn’t Going There enough. And Rex being merged with that Darkling totally changed the course of the story.
Go There. Let the Bad Thing Happen. It raises the stakes, it raises the emotion, it’s everything you want.
In other news, I just found out this morning that Dahlia Adler, of the Daily Dahlia (who I only met in person last month, but whose blog I’ve been following for ages), just sold her first book deal to SpencerHill Contemporary.
Dahlia Adler’s debut BEHIND THE SCENES, pitched as a reverse Notting Hill love story in which a girl takes an assistant job working for her celebrity best friend in order to pay her father’s medical bills, and falls for the hot famous costar, but risks losing those relationships and more when she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, to Patricia Riley at Spencer Hill Press Contemporary, in a three-book deal, by Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger.
Read all about it here. Congrats, Dahlia!