BIC. Hero? Intensity. Kill Off A Character. No Duh. BS. Ruthless Words. Transitions. Five Senses. Immediacy. No Excuses. No Fear.

First week I covered: BIC. Hero? Intensity and POF (presumption of failure).
Second week was: Kill Off A Character. No Duh. BS.
Third week was: Ruthless Words. Transitions. Five Senses.
This week is: Immediacy.

Immediacy is the way writers create suspense in the micro-scene.
Sounds easy. Isn’t.
It is the thing that happens when you say about a book, “I couldn’t put it down,” because every scene pulled you into the next and into the next. Immediacy is the result of using power words and details to increase reader awareness of conflict and pull the reader forward. The result of getting immediacy right is suspense. It is much like a dance with words as the steps and movements and the writer in the lead.

Immediacy is required on every page of a novel, is needed through every scene, to keep the reader grounded in the story. Do I get it right every time? No. But it is my goal.

 Immediacy can happen when the writer blends the known and unknown to create fiction and is used a *lot* by fantasy and urban fantasy writers to create mood and setting.  Immediacy is influenced by a few details: the Diet Coke can, the Armanii suit, the Dolly Parton wig, the oldie goldie Tina Turner song on the radio.

 In Skinwalker, I used the device extensively in the first 32 pages to draw the reader in. I’ll break down a few paras here to show what I did and how. Jane Yellowrock (vamp killer) is following a bodyguard (she has nicknamed Troll) down a hallway to meet his boss. My comments are the end of each para in double parentheses ((like this)).

 I followed him down a narrow hallway that made two crooked turns toward the back of the house.  We walked over old Persian carpets, past oils and watercolors done by famous and not so famous artists.  The hallway was well lit with stained-glass Lalique sconces every few feet.  They looked real, not like reproductions, but maybe you can fake old; I didn’t know.  The walls were newly painted a soft butter color that worked with the light to illuminate the paintings.  Classy joint for a whorehouse.  The Christian children’s home schoolgirl in me was both appalled and intrigued. ((The details are rich and subdued and set the scene. Her reaction is curiosity and detail oriented and tells us a lot about Jane. The words I worked on the most because they lead into the dance of suspense are: followed, crooked, fake, Classy joint for a whorehouse, and intrigued. They all lead us on, pulling us forward, creating immediacy. The dance image is through the active verbs, and it’s similar to the opening steps of a tango when the lead and his partner take the first steps and one another’s measure.))

When Troll paused outside the red door at the hallway end, I stumbled, catching my foot on a carpet.  He caught me with one hand and I pushed off him with very little body contact.  I managed to look embarrassed when he shook his head.  He knocked.  I braced myself and palmed the cross he had missed in his pat-down.  And the tiny two-shot derringer.  Both hidden against my skull on the crown of my head, and covered by my braids, which men never ever searched, as opposed to my Luchesse’s which men always had to stick their fingers in.  It was a partial excuse for the faux stumble and having my hands high. ((Stumbled, catching, very little body contact, managed to look embarrassed, braced myself, palmed. The rest of the para is explanation which need for the next para to work. It does slow down the pacing, but this is the first time we learn about her hidden weapons. The benefit is the reader has to wonder why she needs weapons for a job interview. More forward movement creating conflict. If we use the dance image here, it is like a tango, two characters moving together yet at cross purposes to create a story and set a scene.))

He opened the door and stood aside.  The room was neat and Spartan, but each of the pieces within looked Spanish.  Old Spanish.  Like Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus old.  The woman, wearing a teal dress and soft slippers, standing beside the desk, could have passed for twenty until you looked in her eyes.  Then she might have passed for said Queen’s older sister.  Old, old, old eyes.  Peaceful as she stepped toward me.  Until she caught my scent. ((The details are slow and all of them dance around the repetitive use of the word old. “Until she caught my scent.” Which pulls us into the next para, and is like a quick turn on the dance floor.))

In a single instant her eyes bled red, pupils went wide and black, and her fangs snapped down.  She leaped.  I dodged her, sliding under her leap as I pulled the cross and ripped the derringer from my scalp, to the far wall where I held out the weapons.  The cross was for the vamp, the gun for the Troll.  She hissed at me, fangs fully extended.  Her claws were bone white and two inches long.  Troll pulled a gun.  A big gun.  Men and their pissing contests.  Crap.  Why can’t they ever just let me be the only one with a gun. ((single instant, bled red, pupils, wide, black, fangs snapped, leaped, dodged, sliding, pulled, ripped. The action active words and punctuation give us speed and intensity. Cross, gun, hissed, fangs, claws, bone, gun, big gun, pissing contests, Crap. These pull us through the action and back into the character’s head all at once. In a dance, where the lead whirls his partner into a turn and back and stops abruptly. The female dancer’s dress has an instant to settle. Stop.))

“I’m not human,” I said, my voice steady.  “That’s what you smell.”  I couldn’t do anything about the tripping heart rate, which I knew would drive her further over the edge.  But I’m an animal.  Biological factors always kick in.  So much for trying not to be nervous. ((not human, tripping heart rate, drive, further, animal, kick in, nervous. All these words are the finish of one dance movement, a micro element in the book that sets the tone, pace, relationships, conflict, and pull the reader forward into the next para and the next. We end at an impasse, the characters ready for the next movement in the dance.))

 At the end of every scene I ask myself, did I achieve immediacy? Do the readers want more? Do they want to follow me into the next dance set? Have I left them bent over my arm, stretched to the breaking/falling point, dependant on me to bring them back for more? If not, then I haven’t done my job as a writer.


9 comments to SWING TIPS Pt 4

  • Wow! Great stuff, Faith. I remember hearing you do the reading for this scene at ConCarolinas. Reading it is even better, and the breakdown of what you’ve done is terrific. Care to do the rest of the book this way….?

  • I’m glad I had swollowed my tea, otherwise I’d have choked on the suggestion. Heck no! But thanks, David!

  • Very cool. Not only does this keep us on the edge of our seats but it really does begin to paint a picture of the character, as well, by what she notices around her as well as her attitude. And don’t think I don’t see through your nefarious scheme to get me to buy Skinwalker! 🙂

  • Mikaela

    This was intresting, especially since one of my weak points are using description. I, er, tend to forget about it when I write my first drafts. Second drafts has a little bit more. But still not enough… In the third draft, it get a bit better, since then I am just tweaking(Hopefully).

  • Great job, Faith. I love the way you get down to the nitty gritty stuff like word choice here. Really helpful.

  • CE, you see through me! I am undone! LOL. Actually I am neck deep in rewrites of Blood Cross (Skinwalker sequel) and had this file open on my PC. It was handy. And it was okay PR. In this biz I try to be cognizant of every opportunity.

    Mikaela, I have just the opposite problem. Often too much description. Too much scene setting. Too many transitions that could be handled with a short narritive passage. I have to fight it all the time.

    AJ, This is too kind coming from a rising star (nay — exploding star?) in more than one genre.

  • Hmmm, big difference between stars rising and stars exploding. If I’m to be an exploding star, I’m taking y’all with me… 🙂

  • Beatriz

    Amazing, Faith! I loved reading this passages just as much as I enjoyed listening to you read it at the Con. What a wonderful lesson on the power of word choice!

  • AJ, I’ll ride on your coattails any day. And I promise that wasn’t a call-girl sexual innuendo. ;>

    Miz M! Glad you liked it. If I hadn’t been so lazy I’d have rewritten it with poorer word choices for a comparison contrast. But I am. Lazy, that is.