The bones and muscles of the story are laid down, the things that need to happen. Now comes the skin and the connective tissue: description and makings sure that reveals happen in the correct place, that everything happens for a reason.
But there’s also some mental pressure here to add tension.
Some writers really torture their characters. They throw everything in there, much like the end of Rogue One.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I really adored Rogue One, but close to the end I began to get fed up with ‘everything will go wrong’…especially when it began to look silly to me. (I thought this the first time I saw it in the theater.)
There’s a scene where Jyn is climbing the tower to get to the communication platform. Multiple bad things have already happened, but as she climbs alone, she sees that she has to go through a vent that’s opening and closing regularly.
And my first thought on seeing that vent that could cut her in half? It was the chompers from Galaxy Quest.
Because there was no need for it to be there. Why would any engineer design a vent like that?
In fact, it was so egregious that it made me question everything that went wrong for her after that. You see, all she had to do was get up to the platform and insert the tape to play.
- Has to get past the chomper, but then when she inserts the disc, the dish is out of alignment, so she…
- Has to go out on a narrow walkway to realign the dish (like an advanced-technology dish wouldn’t do that automatically.) She does so, but…
- Is shot at by an Imperial fighter (who is incidentally firing at a person in an Imperial uniform on the most important communication dish at their own installation. Why?) The walkway collapses and…
- Jyn has to hang on as it slams against the tower. (Lots of upper body strength required!) Then she…
- Has to climb back up the now-damaged walkway without falling to her death. There she….
- Is confronted by her nemesis, who blocks her from hitting the send button.
I totally bought #6 because we saw him coming that direction, getting on the elevator and heading up there.
But the first five seemed…like contrived tension to me. Because the first was obviously a chomper scene, (“This episode was badly written!”), it made me doubt the rest.
My point in all this being that tension in a story needs to be reasonable. It needs to follow from the story because if it doesn’t, after a while it becomes clear that an author is doing it…just to do it.
We make up all the troubles that befall our protagonists, but we can go too far.
So the next couple of weeks I have to make sure that all the troubles that befall my protagonists actually make sense. That they follow from the plot, and aren’t just chompers.