Difficult scenes: waiting

I feel like I just dropped a heavy load! In my current ms, a long period of waiting just ended. The character everyone was waiting for arrived. It was so hard not to just skip to his arrival and dump the chapters were everyone else is trying to solve a mystery before he arrives.

However, I felt like I needed these chapters. I wanted to add tension. I wanted my characters to try and solve the mystery and fail. I wanted them exacerbated. Trouble was, I didn’t want to exacerbate my readers.

My writing group looks at about 4000 words of each member’s ms per week. That means we usually read about a chapter a time, and most of our chapters fall below this word count. Unfortunately, sometimes this tricks us into thinking that we’re reading a serial novel (like in an old newspaper) where each chapter has to be very action oriented. When we have an entire novel in hand, though, we may read several chapters at a time and too much action would be tiresome.

I won’t know for certain until I read the entire ms continuously, but I think these “lull” chapters might give the readers a break from the action as well as put them in a state of anxiety that mirrors the characters’ anxiety. Well, I can hope. ^_^

I know that no one can give me any advice without actually reading my ms. It’s just been on my mind lately, and I wondered if anyone else ever had these sorts of problems with chapters that involved waiting. Waiting for something to happen can be nail-bitingly tense, but can it also be utterly tiresome? Even if other things are going on during the waiting period? Has a similar situation ever made you put a book down and had you screaming, get to the point already?

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6 thoughts on “Difficult scenes: waiting

  1. I like having action broken up with more restful scenes and chapters. It gives me a chance to get to know the characters better, so I appreciate what they’re going through. Books that are too action packed wear me out.

  2. My group reads the entire manuscript as a whole rather than piecemeal.

    We make comments along the way and then parse it with an overall commentary on what works and what didn’t.

    Needless to say we only work on one ms. at a time, but the feedback has been priceless.

    • We take the piecemeal route, Maria, because it helps push us to keep writing! We’ve instituted a new practice, however, of submitting the entire work once the initial read-through is done. We’ll see how it works out.

  3. Barbara,

    I have, actually, thrown a book down or skipped whole chapters while shouting, “Honestly, get to the point.”

    However, in those cases, the author filled the waiting time with flowery descriptions and way too much introspection. The waits were physcially painful. Seriously, I could feel my nerve endings start to crackle.

    So, it depends on what you fill your waiting time with. And yes, I do think that you need the ups and downs between action and introspection. When done well, these lulls create the tension you are talking about.

    Best luck getting the right rythm for your novel. I’m sure you’ll do fine : )

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