Increasing Tension before the final
Adventures in NaNoWriMo

Creating Anticipation NaNoWriMo day 25

Creating Anticipation for your Final Battle

It’s a long drive to the final battle and no one charged the iPad. Your characters will need to interact, but that doesn’t mean this scene should be boring. Creating anticipation in this scene will pull your readers deeper into the story and see them through to the end.

While this scene doesn’t need to be a literal journey, it does need to create anticipation. This is the moment before the final battle begins. The purpose of this scene is to add to the tension by reminding readers of the stakes.

What are the stakes?

For hints on raising the stakes click here

Joy watches a cutscene where Riley runs away

Emmit meets the man upstairs and finally learns what he is really saving.

Wait? I thought you said no introducing new material this late in the game. -The man upstairs isn’t an 11th-hour twist. He is thoughtfully foreshadowed and this moment is the answer to a puzzle that has been hinted at through the entire movie. Once this happens, those pieces click into place (lego pun) and the entire movie makes sense. (And yes, I’m being intentionally vague for those who have not seen this movie, and if you haven’t, Go Do It Now. Watch it the first time to enjoy it and then again to analyze the plot structure, characterization, etc.)

What to do

Make a short list of everything that’s at stakeCreating

Be specific. “The world” is meh. Make sure those stakes are personal. If it really is the end of the world, make it something about the world that is precious to him. He’s not saving the world, he’s saving his little sister.

Create a scene reminding the readers of those stakes

The reader needs to know what will happen if the character loses.

Show, don’t tell

For some helpful hints about show, don’t tell click here

This can be tricky, especially if little sister isn’t on the plane with our hero. Instead of having your hero sit and think about his sister, he can play with the plastic bead bracelet she made him when she was six. He can talk to someone else on the plane about a memory. This will keep the scene from falling into telling. Rely on subtext, rather than info dumping in the dialogue and watch out for long paragraphs of exposition. Remember, if the camera can’t see it, it’s probably telling. Stuck? Ask “how do we know?”

An Example

Example: telling

Sam was worried. There were too many ways this mission could go wrong. But what else could he do?

Rewrite: showing

Sam rechecked the straps on his pack. They were still perfect. Batteries were still fully charged. Clips were still fully loaded. Boot laces were still triple tied.
“Hey.” It was Julie’s voice. Her hair was pulled so tight it gave her a Valley facelift. “It’s gonna be ok.”
Sam scoffed. “You suck at pep talks.”
She grabbed his hand and slid her thumb over his scar. His pack suddenly gained fifty pounds. “We’re gonna get her back. I promised your mom. We won’t lose her this time.”
He tapped his head against the rib of the plane. “We didn’t lose her last time.”

Don’t just sit there, remind your readers what’s at stake

This is the lull before the storm, but it shouldn’t be dull. This moment is about creating anticipation. Remind readers what’s at stake and why they need to know how this all will end.

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M.L. Keller is a freelance writer and editor. Her blog "The Manuscript Shredder" is focused on helping emerging writers hone their craft.


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