You need to up the tension. How do you impart such an intense emotion to your reader?
Time is a critical factor, but how do you convince a reader who has all the time in the world and the ability to put the book down at any given moment, to keep reading? How do you tell them that if they stop reading, the characters will be in mortal peril?
Part of that is achieved when your characters wiggle their way into your readers’ hearts. Another part of that is achieved with how you write the scene. Cadence plays a very important role in the tension of your story. There are two ways to really accomplish tension in writing; long drawn-out sentences that play on a more roller-coaster feeling and short, choppy sentences that invoke a feeling of spikes of emotion.
Here are two renditions of the same scene:
The cold air wafted up from the basement and hit her in the face, smelling strongly of drywall and rot. The empty house was silent around her save for the sound of quiet sobs coming from the bottom of the basement stairs. She tried the light switch to her left. Nothing. The sobs became a little louder, a little more intense, a little more panic-filled. She stepped down on the first step, the carpet prickling the bottom of her bare feet. The crying instantly stopped.
A blast of cold air hit her face. It smelled like drywall. And rot. She stared down the basement steps. The haunting sound of sobs echoed up the blackened staircase. The empty house around her was silent. She flicked the light switch to her left. Nothing. The sobbing increased in volume. Her heart thudded painfully in her ears. Her foot hovered over the first step. She dropped to the first step. The sobs were suddenly silent.
Which do you like? Which pulls at your heart more? One isn’t more correct than the other, it all depends on what you, the author, like. If you don’t like it, how can your reader?
Try it yourself! Take a scene and write it a few different ways, and choose which is your favorite. Don’t forget to share it here or on the Facebook page!