Everything happens for a reason

Everything that happens happens as it should, and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so.
—Marcus Aurelius

The key is to foreshadow
and create tension

As I worked through the second draft of my novel, I discovered a couple scenes for which I couldn’t answer the following question, “What is the purpose of this scene?”

I almost deleted the passage, but then I asked myself if I could give it a reason for being. As hard as it is to admit, I have difficulty deleting words I’ve taken so much time to create. Sometimes you have to, I know, but….

Two things I constantly remind myself of when I write are that

  • every scene must have a purpose to the overall story, and
  • within each scene, nothing happens without a reason.

You can’t mention Janie finding a key in the attic early in the story and never give it a reason for being. It will open a diary that holds important secrets from the past, it will open a steamer trunk with clues to learning about her ancestors, or maybe it will open Grandpa’s lock box he hid in the barn.

Everything having a purpose creates tension. Without the character worrying or without having something preventing her from reaching their goals, tension is missing. Why would your reader continue to read your novel? These hints foreshadow coming events and are powerful enticements to stay up until after midnight reading your story.

So, with this in mind, I kept the scene, but I modified it to hint at something to come. For example, in one such scene, a stalker attacked my character. She moved to a new home and worked hard to put the relationship behind her. In the revised scene, I created a conversation in which the character’s friend asks if she is sure he is out of her life, suggests a restraining order, and comments on the security system that her brother installed. So now, I’ve put that little bug in the reader’s brain and I would expect my reader to wonder, “is the stalker coming back? I’ve got to keep reading to find out.”

2 thoughts on “Everything happens for a reason

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