You’ve got a good idea for a story, you’ve got a few characters in your head, you’ve got some stuff that happens.
1. List the Heart-Clutching Moments you’ve already thought of—you know, those pivotal points in your story that will evoke all the intensity of that “look behind you!” response in your readers.
2. Think of more.
3. Construct your story around them. I emphasize the difference: Don’t focus on your loosely formed story line. Focus on the key points in your story.
• Love at first sight (Marius Pontmercy meets Cosette)
• A huge moral lapse (Judas takes the money)
• Murder (Miles Archer’s sets Sam Spade in motion)
• Death by other means (Injun Joe starves to death in the cave)
• A refusal of grace (Mayella Ewell sticks to her story in spite of taking the courtroom oath)
• Nature gone wild (shark dines on first recreational swimmer)
• Someone standing up to corruption (Shane picks up his gun again)
• A change of heart, for good or ill (Michael Corleone offers to kill Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey)
• An act of depraved violence (Bill Sykes cudgels Nancy)
• Betrayal (Sandy puts a stop to her mentor Jean Brodie)
• Forgiveness (Melanie insists Scarlett join her in the receiving line)
• A revelation (Pip’s secret benefactor is none other than … !)
• A lifesaving attempt
• A chase
• A battle
• A seduction
• A caper
• Write deeper into an HCM scene you’ve written already. You’ll likely find yourself coming up with bridges between scenes—and thinking of more elements to enhance your story.
• Look for places to add conflict, suffering or frustration.
Readers get hooked on a novel when they meet a character they enjoy spending time with. Characters we love—or love to hate. How do you create them?
The most important page turns in any book are those at the ends of the chapters. Why? Because readers tell themselves, “OK, I swear I will turn out the light at the end of this chapter because I am committed to going to yoga at 6:30.”
• A jump in time or place
• A shift in point of view
• A settling of the action
• A ramping-up of the action