The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Writer friend sent some reviews, including one that praises a certain book's tension.

Coincidentally, this very book is lying on the front floorboard of my car, where it is getting in worse and worse shape from being kicked around by kids getting in and out. I took this book to a few of the lengthy waiting-room sessions I had this summer, thinking that having nothing to do for two hours would force me to stick with it and finish it. Nope. I went and got my crossword puzzle book and did those instead.

Now, I have a lot of trouble reading any fiction nowadays. Writing fiction has ruined me for reading it. I don't know why; it's not like I pick apart everything I read. I guess picking apart my own stuff every day has dulled the part of my brain that approaches books with open enjoyment. I dunno. It's a shame, whatever the reason, because reading has always been one of the joys of my life. But anyway, I'm looking at this review and thinking about my WIP and I'm thinking maybe I don't even know what tension is. I still haven't quite figured out why I started reading The Penderwicks and somehow got sucked into it so that I sat and finished the whole thing in one fell swoop, when I set aside the vast majority of the novels I try to start. It's not like I thought anything might really go wrong in The Penderwicks. There was nothing at all to worry about. People were hanging out together eating gingerbread...scrumptious gingerbread. With cream.

I think I bought that book. If I did, it might be downstairs, unless I lent it to somebody. I ought to try to find it and look at the chapter endings.

Maybe there's plot tension and then there's character tension, and people tend to respond to one or the other. And maybe there are different levels and types of plot tension and character tension. Like I'm guessing I respond to romantic tension, which Penderwicks had, even if it was middle grade romance, harmless and underplayed. Perhaps I did not respond to the tension in the book on my floorboard because I didn't care about any of the characters. Which is interesting because the book is all about a one-sided romance (which Penderwicks also had).

I have noticed that a writer friend and I tend to cut our chapter breaks in completely different places. When this friend has critiqued for me, said friend suggests different places to break for more tension (usually it's just a slightly different place, like maybe a paragraph or two away). But the suggestions almost always feel like the wrong place to me, so I leave it the way it is. We think differently--we see tension differently, somehow.

This is all on my mind because I'm rethinking my chapter breaks now, and trying out different things. It's hard to know what to focus on in the last few paragraphs of a chapter. If it's done properly you can pull the reader onward but also plant thoughts that will echo or be fully developed later on. And that's what we call depth.

Sometimes, however, a hook is just a hook. And sometimes it's a cheap one at that. Sigh.

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