Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How to Defibrillate Your Story

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I had quite a different post nearly done for today. 

I must admit; I almost fell asleep proofreading it. 


Then the moment came. You know how this feels. You're struggling with what to write. The blank scene sits there doing absolutely nothing to help. You walk to the kitchen for chocolate and then a When-what-to-my-wondering-eyes-do-appear moment jars your mind. You run--don't walk--back to your computer leaping over the kids, sidestepping the dirty laundry while changing into your super writer cape. Your fingers can't keep up with the thoughts. YES, yes. You type faster and nod your head. This is happening at this very moment. 

1. My husband called this morning. "I'm on my way home from work, but will be late."  Good that he called, but not out of the ordinary. He typically is late due to his job.

2. "The roads are icy, so this call will be brief."  He was cautious. Good man.

3. "There is a car in the median. The guy isn't hurt, though. He's standing outside his car yelling." Hubby must be driving on the expressway. The man he sees must be in the median on some soft, grassy section. Maybe buried in snow. Will need a tow truck and will be late for work. Poor guy.

4. "I'm still in the city." Changed the picture in my mind to the fifth lane in the middle. Maybe the car is facing the wrong direction. Maybe he ran over debris and has a flat tire. He'll be late for work. Poor guy.

5. "It's really icy here. I'm still near the center of town where the big statue is. That car is at least three feet off the ground. Probably totaled." Wait! This was not the picture I expected. 

Needless to say we hung up and agreed to talk once he arrived home.  While he drove, I ran to my computer and wrote this post.

Not all of us write suspense or adventure stories. However every story needs a climax, dark moments, and etc. I am not going to talk about these. I wanted to clarify this before your mind took you there.

Instead, I want to talk about one unique--eye popping scene in your story, nestled safely, serenely, and  securely in the middle of your manuscript. This is a moment when caffeine hits the words.

Events in the plot have move forward. They've become predictable ONLY because you've done a great job helping the reader get to know the characters, their issues, their journey, et al.  This is the moment for a jolt. Infuse this section of your story with an energy juice so strong it catches the reader off guard and propels her through the remaining pages long into the night.

Strangely enough two real-life jolt incidents recently happened and were mentioned by my friends on FB.

** A friend sat at a Starbucks sipping her hot beverage. She and her date chose a romantic table, one of those raised ones near the window. So engaged in a delicious conversation they reached across the table and held hands. Seconds later the glass behind her shattered. She leaped from her chair and witnessed a car now smashed into the building--inches from her seat. No one was harmed other than the car and the building. JOLT Now there was a romantic coffee shop trip to remember.

** A friend and her family slept soundly through the early night hours. A loud thump woke her from her sleep. She got up and walked through the house searching for the source of the noise. Everything looked normal until she opened the door to the garage. The neighbor had driven his car through the side of her garage and hit her car. No one was harmed. JOLT I doubt she went back to sleep.

These true life situations remind me of the Liberty Life commercials, a great place from which to spin ideas. The motto for these commercials is: Humans, even when we dot our i's and cross our t's we still run into other problems--namely other humans.

Directions for defibrillating your story:
1.  Look at the middle of your book. Find a place to insert one scene.
2.  Consider one event that could jolt the scene (idea: recall the Indiana Jones' conflict when he had to find a way across the cavern to reach the Holy Grail-and had to use the step of faith).
3.  Insert scene like a Liberty Life commercial.
4.  Return reader to your regularly scheduled story.

Your turn: Ponder a place in your story where you can insert a scene. Consider what plausible crazy can happen to jolt your characters, yet enable them to return to the story. 

1. Is this something you can add to your story?
2. Would you like to discuss your thoughts? We here on the Writers Alley are listening and can help.


This blog post is by Mary Vee

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Jeanne Takenaka said...

Mary, I absolutely LOVE this post. So good! Now, I'm going to have to YouTube those Liberty Life commercials. Being an almost-non-television watcher, I probably haven't seen any of them.

I love, love this idea. Thanks for sharing your inspiration!!

Julia M. Reffner said...

I'll have to google those commercials, too. I love how this incident with your husband sparked your imagination. Great post!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks, Jeanne.
This truly was a family inspired post. I read it out loud to my teen. She said, "Oh, it's like those Liberty Life commercials". Yes. She was right. Well, had to include that as well.
You're gonna laugh when you see them, because they are life with a jolt.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks Julia.
Whether a person writes fiction or non fiction, I think these jolts would help reengage the reader or even audience for a speaker.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks Julia.
Whether a person writes fiction or non fiction, I think these jolts would help reengage the reader or even audience for a speaker.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Such an insightful post, Mary! Love where you took my mind with these scenarios. You're right, there doesn't have to be traditional suspense to jolt your reader. And we've all read those books with the flat or saggy middle. Wonderful tips here. Great stuff!!!!

Pepper said...

Best way to inflate a saggy middle? Add a jolt!
Fantastic idea, Mare. Oh how I need to remember this. It's so easy in the middle of all of our character creating, plot thickening, and writing rules to think of ways to shock the story back to life.
Real life stories are a great way!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Awww, thanks, Ames. Amazing how the unexpected even jolted this post for a topic! Hah!

Mary Vee Writer said...

You have such a fantastic way to come up with those real life stories, too. I don't know how you store all of those great ideas in your head and keep them straight while you write.