I am in the middle of editing Fae Hunter, and in the middle of a lot of first drafts is where you start to notice a problem with scene tension. I attend a class for novel revision and this was a recent topic. During the discussion I had an epiphany, I actually have the opposite problem than was the example of the typical mistake made in first drafts. A lot of the times we move our characters through actions without knowing what is properly motivating them for the decisions they are making. Cassie needs to make it to the ship and “Choose Your Own Adventure” style she either has to take Path A where she will confront a band of dangerous thugs who want to steal her gold or Path B where she may confront her ex-boyfriend, and it was a messy break-up. Either way you are going to have some great action right? But what makes Cassie choose one path over the other?
My novel Fae Hunter is told in first person. In a first person perspective you get to hear a lot of the characters thoughts. You get to figure out why they choose one way over another. Their motivations are revealed, and each decision they make should be true to their character.
So back to my problem. I have a little bit of author-anxiety combined with a need to get the entire story in my head onto the screen before it disappears. Therefore, I will tend to put physical obstacles in front of my characters to direct their path. Don’t worry about choosing a path Cassie, I the author, know you are going to pick Path B because you have a burning desire to bury the hatchet with your ex, so I will put a wall of flame in front of Path A and make it easy on you. Now go deal with the ex. A little too convenient.
And that is just what it appears to the reader. Too easy. I didn’t let the reader know Cassie’s motivations even though I knew what they were. I didn’t make Cassie squirm at all. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if you heard Cassie fret over how her ex was always able to make her stray from her goals and if anyone could talk her out of going to the ship it would be him? Perhaps then you could make her take Path A, choosing to stay away from him. It doesn’t mean her ex couldn’t jump in and help her defeat the thugs blocking her path. There is the chance for them to have the interaction, but you made it more interesting because you showed Cassie’s inner struggle. The reader identified with her plight, then you plunged her into danger and confrontation with her ex anyway. Character torture, readers love it –some authors have a hard time with it.
And don’t worry, I’m sure Cassie makes it on the ship — or does she?