I hope your NaNoWriMo draft is going well. You’re probably past the halfway point. Nice job!
If you’ve been following these blogs, you probably have a plan to finish the first draft of your novel this month and you’re writing a story in a genre of your choosing.
If you want to make your next scenes feel more exciting and interesting (and inspire yourself along the way), here is something you can immediately implement in your next round of writing: Make each scene have a value shift.
How to make a value shift
What does this mean? For every scene, make some value for your main characters change positively or negatively.
Let’s say you’re writing a scene about a couple who is making dinner at their house. You could just have the characters talk to each other about what happened during their day as a way of explaining to the reader some things about the characters and to move the story along through exposition.
But if the scene ends with the characters just ending their casual conversation about that day and starting dinner, you’re missing an opportunity to move the story forward with a value shift.
How could we make a value shift in this scene? Here’s an example.
One of the characters, while chopping the carrots, is talking to his partner. Distracted, he slices open his finger with the knife, and his partner faints because of the sight of blood. The protagonist’s life value goes from unhurt to hurt and you have your readers wondering how this protagonist is going to fix their profusely bleeding finger in the next scene.
Here’s another, more focused on internal drama.
The protagonist’s partner is silently fuming at the protagonist for forgetting his birthday the day before. After some awkward silence and small talk over the chopped carrots, the protagonist apologizes, but the partner blows up at the protagonist and storms out of the room.
In this case, the protagonist’s internal value changed from unloved to rejected and your readers are wondering how the protagonist is going to solve the rift in the relationship.
These sorts of value shifts give stories momentum and excitement. Positive to negative, negative to positive, positive to extra positive, or negative to extra negative—try to make sure every scene has a value shift. Mix up the direction of the shift from scene to scene, too. Tip: Don’t just do positive to negative every scene.
Keep the concept of value shifts in mind when you’re stuck writing a scene. What value could you shift for your main character at this moment in time in your story? These shifts keep your characters and your readers on their toes.
Value shifts gives you a goal for writing each scene: How to get to the value shift.
Talk to you next week. Keep writing.
Jay Peters is a Seattle-based writer and editor who offers manuscript editing and developmental editing at jaympeters.com. He’s happy to chat with you about your NaNoWriMo story — just email him through his website. In his spare time, he likes to run through the city and read in the most comfortable chair he can find.