Sounds like a pretty ominous blog title, huh? Well, after my week from hell where my daughter started off with a massive head cold, then I spent two sick days with a bug I don't ever want to revisit me, then it turned into three more days where my son developed a high fever, then strep throat I could definitely say that every day last week things definitely got worse (thanks for all the get well wishes, by the way).
In real life, things getting worse is not such a great experience. But for fiction? Oh, yeah. Making things worse creates GREAT fiction. And that's what the Donald Maass worshop held by the TRW last Saturday (just before things got worse!) taught me. As a writer you should Always. Make. Things. Worse. And then … make them even more worse (is that grammatically correct?? Make them worser?? Well, you get my meaning). After that workshop I have the sneaking suspicion that Donald Maass is a bit of a sadist - a very smart, very charming sadist who only wants to make your books better. Pain is a good thing when it comes to improving your book.
I always knew that conflict and drama were necessary to make a book more unputdownable. But what Mr. Maass's workshop taught me was that you should take every thing that happens to your character and up that conflict even more, and then up it again. Increase the problems (both the number and severity) that occur. Try to have every chapter end in a way that shows your character getting in deeper. This upping of problems should always be in the back of your mind. But, you say (and I said it as well in my mind as I was listening to him), that's just too much isn't it? I mean, for every horrible thing that happens to your character, that drives him/her into a worse mess, well that just makes it more difficult for you to get that character out of the situation, doesn't it? As a writer, why do I want to make that much work for myself? Why you ask? WHY???
Because, people, you can't think as a writer. You need to think as a reader. Readers want to be entertained. I certainly want to sit on the edge of my seat, turning that page wondering "Oh, God! Why did she just do that? How on earth is she going to get out of that mess?" As a reader, I want my stories to make me anxious, keep me guessing. I sure as heck hate it when my real life is like that but my stories? Bring the problems on, baby.
So, as I head into the depths of revision to a book that already has some pretty catastrophic things happening to my main character I know I'll be thinking about what more nasty, horrible situations I can throw at poor Jani. I just hope I'll be able to figure out a way to get her out of the messes she walks into. Squee! What fun. Guess I'm a bit of a sadist myself...