By: Martina Boone
I'm about to spill one of my worst kept writing secrets, by which I mean that I'm going to talk about why I include a lot of the kinds of scenes that legendary agent and author Donald Maass, whose many books about writing I usually agree with in their entirety, says to leave out of a novel. What kind of scenes are those? The ones that take place in kitchens, living rooms, and cars driving back and forth. Let's call them the everyday scenes.
Now it's true that these scenes are the ones that usually are left out of successful novels--especially young adult novels. Why? Because they tend to be low-tension scenes. Scenes where people are sitting around talking and not much is happening.
But low action doesn't have to mean low tension. Novels aren't necessarily about action; they're about conflict. And conflict can occur anywhere. That's what a lot of writers overlook, and it can result in low-tension (aka boring) action scenes as well as scenes that end up being just two characters talking.
There are many valid reasons to have those everyday scenes, though. Which means it's a good thing there are easy ways to beef them up so they engage instead of disengage your reader.
Opportunities for conflict come from the past and the future as well as the present.
Everyday scenes tend to be about family, something which is absent in a lot of young adult novels today, and even in many popular novels. Family is important to me, though, and the Heirs of Watson Island series
The key to making everyday scenes, or really any scenes, interesting is to use the past and the future, as well as the present, to make sure the scenes contain enough dramatic tension.
There are five quick ways to add tension to a scene:
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