Monday, February 27, 2012

MMWUC - Taking It To The Edge

Your protagonist is in trouble. Things look bleak. And then you write...

Johnny's gone. Standing in the cheap apartment, she sighs. The ragged toe-nail has put a run in her stocking, but she finishes suiting up to do battle with the department store over the shoes she's returning. She finds the receipt in her purse before glancing at her leg. The clear nail polish trick has made the run fade into obscurity, empowering her. "I'm going to get my money back," she says and drives to the store.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This is your version of taking it to the edge! Harlan Coben is turning over in his grave in New Jersey. Wait! He's still alive? Sorry about that homeboy, but you get my point.

If you want your reader to care, take them to the edge. If you aren't uncomfortable with the big dramatic scene in your book, then your reader probably won't be either. And you want the reader to feel something. In mysteries, you have to make the reader feel as though the protagonist can lose and has something worth losing.

The ragged toe-nail ruins her stockings. She sobs. It's her last pair. Tears fall unabated as her anger chokes her, and the face of that mousy little sales clerk who forced her to buy the shoes she couldn't afford crystallizes in her mind. "That bitch," she screams not caring who might hear her though the cheap walls. The sobs dissolve, and the anger turns to rage. She grabs a shirt and pulls it over her head, slams into jeans, pounds her foot into boots. The shoes are still in the bag, but the receipt is gone. Did she ever give it to me? Purse. She dumps the contents on the unmade bed. No receipt. "Dammit." She opens the nightstand drawer looking for it and Johnny's old snub-nosed .38 rattles in the otherwise empty draw. She hesitates before grabbing the gun and car keys. "Little bitch can have two-timing Johnny, but I'm damn sure going to get my money back, receipt or not."

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