In the dog days of summer, it’s tempting to want to relax a bit and let your story drift along on its own. Like you (perhaps) imagining yourself floating aimlessly on an inner tube on a lake somewhere – right? Trouble is, those scenes are going to read like they’ve succumbed to the summer heat or taken refuge in the shade somewhere. So, what’s to be done?
Grab Your Sensory Bucket
If my scene is feeling flat, like it’s fallen and can’t get up, I pull out my emergency sensory details bucket. If the scene seems to be drifting along on just one, I add more. Your reader may see the stream, but do they hear the water dancing over the rocks? Can they smell the rain of an approaching storm? Does your character pat her horse in a reassuring gesture and take a drink from the stream alongside it? Adding all five elements in one sentence will probably give your reader sensory overload, but making sure they have a full, encompassing experience in a scene will help them become immersed and feel like they are there, right next to your character.
Shovel in Some Trouble
If there’s going to be a tension-filled scene, toss in a mighty storm! Why not? If your character is already in distress, let nature lend a hand. If nature isn’t the best answer for your story or character, how about creating a power outage (nature-induced or otherwise)? Food poisoning or some other illness? Perhaps a neighbor who’s always held a grudge has decided that tonight is the night to settle the score. Consider the possibility of adding something to the scene that complicates the challenge your character is already facing.
Top Off With Teasers
It’s good to have your readers think they know what’s happening next and then turn them in another direction. It could be something your character says or does that has them thinking, “That can’t possibly happen.” Then you can go on to prove to them that it can, and it did. Plant clues or seemingly unimportant objects in a scene, let them bob in and out of scenes (unobtrusively) to keep the reader noticing just a bit, and then let them play a significant role when their time comes.
So grab that glass of iced tea, and have a float in the pool/lake. While you’re doing that, think about how you can shake things up. A LOT.