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Episode Transcript (by TK @_torkz)

[Upbeat Ukulele Intro Music]
This is We Make Books, a podcast about writing publishing and everything in between. Rekka is a published Science Fiction and Fantasy author, and Kaelyn is a professional genre fiction editor. Together, they'll tackle the things you never knew you never knew about getting a book from concept to finished product, with explanations, examples, and a lot of laughter. Get your moleskin notebook ready. It's time for We Make Books.

We Make Books Ep. 62 Transcription

After intro: [00:26]

Kaelyn: We’re talking today about reader tension and tense situations and managing these things. And you know getting the, kinda grabbing everyone and wanting to be like ‘this is important and there’s peril and stakes here, and you should pay attention to this.’

Rekka: This was another topic that was suggested to us by an uncredited listener, because I failed to write down all the people who suggested a very long list of topics that we will be going through. So I apologize, feel free to @ us on Twitter and take credit for the topic. But the original question posed was how to manage reader stress, and I assume they mean the tension and anxiety that our reader feels as they go through your plot. Because, as Kaelyn pointed out, you don’t want to get so anxious and wound up over a plot that you can’t finish the story and you need to protect yourself for self care reasons and back away.

K: We’re interpreting this question as not managing the external stress of readers. There’s generally not a lot a book or an author can do about that, so please don’t try.

R: Although! A good book can really help you escape.

K: Absolutely, yes. Maybe a book that’s just full of pictures of puppies.

R: Also good!

K: Yeah.

R: Yeah. So, the anxiety and tension that we’re talking about is being cast upon the reader intentionally to draw them into your story. But how do you make sure you don’t go too far, and how do you ramp up tension where you want it so that they aren’t just kinda reading it and being like ‘I don’t care about any of this.’

K: Building tension is, it’s difficult. For two reasons: one, it’s a hard thing to do in writing, but then two, it’s also very difficult to place it in a story. Let’s qualify here depending on your genre, if you’re writing a suspense thriller that’s just going to be a tense situation [laughing] throughout the book. Most books, I would argue the majority of books, have some sort of conflict in them. There’s going to be a point at which things come to a head. It could be physical, it could be mental, it could be, you know, strictly verbal confrontation. It could be characters that never actually meet but you know were seeing each other’s perspectives as they, I dunno interact over the computer, they’re both trying to hack the same database at the same time. 

K:I have a friend who trains people in various business ventures, and one of the things she always says is “conflict is crucible.” And what she’s kinda saying there is that when you’re trying to solve a problem you have to resign yourself to some conflict, because conflict helps you get information, it helps you understand what you’re looking at, it helps you understand the stakes. And I think that applies well to writing, because the conflict, first of all, builds richer characters, it builds a better storyline, it helps us understand motivations and actions better. But it’s also really engaging. That’s kinda what we’re here for.

R: Yeah, I would say that a story without conflict is going to be a very milquetoast kind of story. It doesn’t matter what scale the conflict happens on, but -

K: Mhm.

R: - you want some kind of ‘what’s going to happen’ to linger, right up until the end of your story, you just want to kind of change like ‘ooh! Now that happened, what’s going to happen now?’ You know, it kind of elevates in stages. So every story is going to have conflict that’s on a - that is proportional to the scale of the story being told. So, it doesn’t always have to be end of the world scenarios; it can be ‘this person needs to sort their life out, and will they get that job they want, and will their roommate discover that they’re actually a sorcerer?’

K: I mean I hope so.

R: Right? Those kinds of conflicts can be big or small; it’s the stakes of the story. And you want your reader invested in the stakes of the story, so you want them to feel a little bit of anxiety about how the story’s going to go. If they don’t, then they can drift away from the book at any point and forget to pick it up ever again.

K: I look back at things that I read as an adult, and things that I read as a kid, and the like really intense parts where you’re like trying to keep yourself from skipping ahead on the page -

R [overlapping]: [giggling]

K: - and you know reading as fast as possible -

R: Kaelyn that is cheating.

K: I know! But like I - tell my brain. [laughing]

R [overlapping]: [laughing]

K: You know but where you’re like ‘oh my god I gotta know what happens, I gotta know what happens!’ And then sometimes -

R: Just so everyone knows, as an editor Kaelyn wants to know the end -

K [overlapping]: Yeah.

R: Like as soon as the author knows it. So don’t feel like she just skips to the end in books she picks up at the bookstore, no she wants the spoilers all the time.

K: I need to know the end to a story. I’m not one of those people who waits ‘til a series comes out to read the books, because I can’t wait that long -

R [overlapping]: Mhm!

K: - to be [???], I need a fix in there somewhere. But this is why I’m like weirdly into unsolved mystery kinda things, because I just need to know what happened, like [laughing] I always say if I could have a superpower, it’s not that I want to time travel. I don’t wanna like go back and interact and change things.

R: Or go forward and get lottery numbers.

K: Yeah I just wanna be able to like astral project or something so I can just, I just wanna see what happened. I just wanna know what actually happened, you know, who shot JFK? What’d they do with the aliens at Rosland? Did we land on the moon? I mean -

R: Roswell.

K: Roswell, yes. Why did I say Rosland?

R: Maybe you know something we don’t because you went back in time.

K: It’s possible. It’s very possible. But yeah, I am someone who like feeds off of that tension. And I love intrigue, I love building the story, and by the way I just touched on another way you build tension here, which is not always necessarily conflict; sometimes it’s mystery. Sometimes the stakes are trying to find something, or figure something out, or solve a puzzle, or learn someone’s true identity. There was definitely a heyday for this sort of thing in the 90s and 2000s, especially with young adult literature, where a lot of the tension that was building in the book was people trying to get answers about a mysterious prophecy or an object or find a lost relic.

R: Ohhh, I love a good lost relic.

K: Ah, the best. Romantic tension is also a thing.

R: You would have to imagine it is, because in the romance novels like that is -

K [overlapping]: Yup.

R: - the main plot of the book. So a will-they-won’t-they is a ‘what’s going to happen next?’

K: Yeah, a will-they-won’t-they, or how will they get through this, will they ever find each other again. So I think when we say like tension in the book we’re picturing like a big Lord of the Rings style -

R: Oh I’m imagining the boulder in Indiana Jones just hovering over everybody.

K: Okay! Or that, you know we’re thinking of like direct action and conflict. But tension can be built a lot of different ways. It’s not always ‘I’m going to fight this knight now to free the dragon,’ and yes in my scenario we free dragons, we don’t slay them.

R: Absolutely!

K: Dragons are people too.

R: Yeah.

K: Creating tension for readers is part of what’s compelling about a book. Now, sometimes these get a little out of hand. I’m gonna qualify that again, genre matters a lot here. If we’re talking about like a spy thriller, if we’re talking about a murder mystery, a suspense thriller, something like that. Yeah, you should go in expecting a lot of tension, you should know what you’re getting out of that genre. Rekka, can you think of any books offhand that you had to like put down and walk away from?

R: Because there was too much tension?

K: Because the situation, the intensity of the situation was making you uncomfortable.

R: Hmm.

K: I can think of a couple. I’m not gonna say what they are, but I’ve definitely had that happen.

R: So you’re asking if that’s happened?

K: Yes. Has that ever happened to you?

R: No. I’ve never put down a book because I was uncomfortable with high levels of tension; I’ve put down books because there was little tension and I wasn’t grabbed.

K: I’ve got a really thick skin when it comes to this stuff, there isn’t a lot that bothers me. There’s been two books that, one where it was just like the violence and the tension was just getting gratuitous. With that case it wasn’t that it was making me uncomfortable. It was almost like coming full circle and getting pedantic. This is so ridiculous it’s almost erased the tension, I’m no longer able to suspend my disbelief.

R: Okay. So, what does that say about the author’s ability to manage the tension?

K: Not doing a great job.

R: What was broken, if you wanna use that word, in that case?

K: I think in this case, there was too much trying to shock people. Trying to shock the readers reading it.

R: Okay, is that tension though?

K: The scenario of the book was a group of people going through some kind of a building, I don’t even remember what it was, and they’re getting picked off by monsters and booby traps the whole time. It started out well, because it’s dark, there’s a lot of sounds and things and nobody’s quite sure what’s like, is that us, is it something else, is something following us, we know this place is full of danger okay we just have to get through here, and then what was happening was characters were dying. They were dying in horrible ways, and they were being very - described in great detail. And again, I have a really thick skin for this. That kind of stuff doesn’t bother me. But what was happening was it was actually getting to the point that it was breaking the tension a little bit, because they were losing me there. 

K: So I think the author’s intention was to really up the scale and the stakes, because it wasn’t just like ‘and a hole opened, and Jonathan fell through and we heard screams and then nothing.’ Like first of all it was breaking the tension of the story stopping to describe all of this stuff. But beyond that, it was - I don’t know. It was a very strange reaction, a very strange feeling, where it was kind of like I can’t tell if this is making me nauseous or if I’m bored.

R: Okay. This is making me think of the movie Thirteen Ghosts.

K: Yes.

R: Does this, is this ringing true for you?

K: That is definitely ringing true for me. I had a similar experience with that movie. On the flip side, the other one that I had to put down and walk away had to do with sex. The tension that they were building with this couple that wasn’t really a couple, and the dichotomy and the power struggles here, and the clear anxiety of one character vs not the other that I think was supposed to be building romantic tension, and ooh they’re so into each other, it didn’t at all.

R: Okay.

K: It was actually, I can’t read this. As I’ve been talking through both of these you sort of pointed something out: was it the tension or was it things that writers were trying to use to create tension that weren’t actually tension-building devices?

R: Right. It sounds like people are trying to use some visuals and elements that are, let’s say, flashes in the pan -

K: Mhm.

R: - in terms of the effect they have on the reader, versus something that’s actually building a landscape over which the story is traveling. And it’s the landscape I would argue that you want, because jumpscares are great for a horror movie, but once you’ve calmed down, that’s all there is. Versus actually building, in that case, dread or fear. So things that have an intense effect but the effect is not lasting I don’t think are going to be what you want to use when you’re trying to control how the reader paces themself to get to the end of your book.

K: I think in the example I used with the violence one, you know you have these characters, they’re trying to get from point A to point B, and they’re getting picked off or killed horribly one by one. And on some level I understand what the author was trying to do there. Instead of simply saying ‘and this person’s dead now,’ they’re upping the intensity of the situation by showing that they’re not dead, they’re dying horribly. So you’re getting the collective fear and horror built into the group of the remaining survivors so you’re empathizing with them more. In that scenario, I see what they were doing. They were trying to use this gore and this violence to instill an intensity in you, but it got to the point that it was too much.

R: So it wasn’t flash in the pan, it was just overreaching?

K: Overkill, if I can make that pun? [overlapping] A little bit, please?

R [overlapping]: You cannot. I’ve checked with our producer and -

K: [grunts]

R: - they’re shaking their head.

K: Alright, fair. [chuckling] There can be times that you just take the device you’re using too far, and it jumps the shark a little bit and becomes ridiculous.

R: In the case of something getting to the point of ridiculosity, are they even employing the tools that would work and just overdoing it, are they overutilizing the tools, leaning on them too heavily, abusing them, or are they in the wrong toolbox entirely?

K: Exactly, yeah.

R: No, I’m asking you. [laughing]

K: Oh. [laughing] Um no I was going to say those are all things to consider. I think that’s something you have to work with an editor on, and I think that’s something that you have to have readers give you feedback about, because this for a lot of writers becomes a can’t see the trees for the forest scenario. You’re so deep into this, you’re not reading this for the first time like most readers will be, you wrote this. Rekka you tell me, when you’re rereading things that you wrote, either for fun or doing revisions, does your heart beat a little faster when you get to these scenarios?

R: If it’s been long enough that I forget where I’m going with them. [laughing]

K: Exactly, yeah.

R: Because you know what you’re trying to build to, and when you’re trying to write it sometimes you can feel like you’re being sooo hamfisted about it.

K: Yeah. Writers need help for contextualizing this, I think. Because first of all you know what’s gonna happen, hopefully. [laughing] Second, you’ve been through it so many times it doesn’t have the same punch, the same meaning that it did.

R: That’s one of the frustrating things about being a writer, trying to know whether you’re being effective. You burn through beta readers because you need somebody who hasn’t read it before to tell you whether it’s working.

K: Yeah so circling back to is it too much, are you leaning into it, are you in the wrong toolbox entirely, that can be a really hard thing for writers to understand. I’ve definitely read books where I’ve felt like after a few revision paths, every time the author was going through and trying to up the scare factor or the intensity factor in everything, I think that’s something where you need an editor or a very good friend to help you there.

R: [laughing]

K: It’s a balancing act. You have to maintain believability. There is a difficult-to-track issue of understanding when a situation is intense and when it’s not tense enough or too intense. I’ve definitely read books where important things have happened, and I didn’t realize that was an important thing because the writing and the way the characters were behaving didn’t indicate to me that that was a significant event. And if you’re going ‘oh well, what does that have to do with it?’, that’s building intensity.

R: I recently gave someone feedback that said like ‘hey, I think this moment needs to slow down for a second, and I know there’s a lot of other stuff going on, but like if you don’t linger on this, it’s not going to have the impact you want.

K: You don’t wanna have to be in a position where you gotta insert a character in the story jumping up and down screaming at the reader that something that’s happening is important, but if you can’t signal to them in some way that it is, that’s not great.

R: You have to figure out how to signal it without really putting a wavy-armed balloon man in front of it.

K [laughing]: Yes. Exactly. It’s difficult, and there’s a reason that authors that can do this well are very successful in writing, you know, murder mysteries and spy thrillers and suspense novels and stuff. Because there’re people that eat that up. That’s like what they live for. I can take it or leave it. But then there are people who avoid it like the plague.

R: Like you said, genre has a lot to do with it. We’re getting to a point which I think is good where people are starting to put content notes on books just like you would get at the beginning of a TV show. So you know this has depictions of graphic violence, sexuality - um, there’s a difference between sexuality and nudity - endangerment of a child, trauma, stuff like that. And that helps people dial in, like ‘do I wanna read this book, is this the kind of intensity I’m looking for or not?’

K: Now, and that said, there may be things that happen in the book that it never would’ve occurred to you to put a content warning about.

R: And hopefully maybe your beta readers can highlight a couple things too.

K: What I’m getting at is there’s going to be things that happen - in books, in movies, in TV shows - that are upsetting for a specific person for a specific reason.

R: Mhm.

K: There’s no way to predict all of these -

R [overlapping]: Yeah.

K: And try to compensate and notify for that. It sounds terrible to say stick to the obvious and take in the advice of others, but that is what I would say. And I’m not saying don’t write these things. Be aware of what you’re writing.

R: Be aware of what you’re writing and then be willing to take the responsibility for the people who are going to be upset by that and say like ‘yes, this is something I felt was necessary to the plot, but I promise you I gave it thought and hopefully the people who’d be extra upset by it will be warned by friends or somebody before they pick it up.’

K: For anyone who’s sitting at home going - and to be honest I don’t think many of our listeners think this, but maybe who knows - ‘why do I have to bend over backwards to accommodate this?’ You know what, honestly, you don’t.

R: It’s a choice you make, yeah. [chuckles]

K: But it’s really shitty not to when it’s so easy to do. And believe me, people who suffer from particular anxieties or trauma and everything, they’re ultra-aware of this stuff. They’re typically not going to go into a store, pick up a random book, and say ‘I’ll just read this now’ because, exactly for that reason: they don’t wanna put themselves in a position where the intensity of the book is going to induce an anxiety spiral. And if you think that doesn’t happen, I don’t know what to tell you at this point because you’re wrong. [laughing] So!

R: And it’s also not necessarily the intensity of the book, but the specific situations and the intensity of that person’s personal experience laid over top of that.

K: Yeah. Exactly. So, for readers who are saying “how do I keep myself safe from this kind of thing” so to speak, read content warnings. Read reviews online. Here’s a thing: read the bad reviews, read the people who didn’t like the book, because the ones who are complaining about things are gonna give you a little bit more insight probably, into areas that you might find distressing.

R: And you can always just post a question on Twitter, like “hey -

K [overlapping]: Yeah.

R: “ - here’s something that really bothers me in books; I’m thinking of picking up this one, anything you wanna warn me about, I’d appreciate.”

K [overlapping]: Yeah. You know, I’m not saying this to put all of the onus upon the reader who’s concerned about this, but, I mean do your research. If you know this is something that’s important to you and something you need to manage and minimize as best you can, the best judge of character for that’s gonna be you.

R: For the writer, you know, sensitivity reads are not a bad idea. Like we said, we can’t cover everything with a single sensitivity reader but they might be able to give you more insight. If your intensity of your plot is overlaid with a certain kind of life experience, I guarantee you can find a sensitivity reader for it. And if you don’t, ask around and someone else will be able to help you.

K: Yeah but I mean beyond that, content warnings do a lot.

R: You can’t cover everything and everyone, like -

K [overlapping]: No.

R: - Kaelyn was saying, you can give it a fair attempt.

K: Listen, if your fair attempt is something along the lines of ‘contains violence, gore, and depictions of furries,’ like, that’s that’s giving everyone at least a heads-up of what’s in here.

R: And a Venn diagram of figuring out where they fall in that. [chuckles]

K: I will defend the writers a little bit here in saying that there’s only so much you can do, to a certain point. [laughing]

R: In order to indicate everything that happens in your book, you literally have already done that, you’ve written the book. You can be broad and you can welcome people to send you a note and ask you if they have a specific concern they’re afraid of running into.

K: I would call it a good faith gesture to do that. And, I think if there’s parts in there where you’re going ‘I wonder if I should explain this,’ the answer is, maybe decide what it is and then just mention that that’s a thing that’s gonna happen in there.

R: Okay, so this is managing the readers’ stress literally, and kind of the external forces as we said we weren’t going to cover.

K: Well I mean I was joking about just like daily life stress. [laughing]

R: Right, but I mean this is kind of tied to their personal experience. So, going back to considering it now a positive to build stress and anxiety, what would you say to an author who brought you their story, and it reads as a little flat. What would you tell them, how to increase anxiety in the reader, by which I mean tension in the story?

K: I’m gonna flip that and ask has that ever happened to you? I know the answer to that is no because I read your writing [laughing], so!

R: You know, I am really surprised by how many people have told me that my books are really tense.

K: Yeah my blood pressure’s definitely spiked a few times over the course of events. [laughing]

R: Is it just because of Hankirk? Like is it just because he’s infuriating?

K: It’s a lot of things, um -

R [overlapping]: [laughing]

K: And actually you’ve touched on something that I think is very interesting that you do in your writing - and this is another kind of tension that I think we don’t really appreciate as a different kind of tension to build - is hopelessness. And despair.

R: Aw, now I’m mad. I didn’t mean to be hopeless!

K: No, you weren’t, but this sense of like ‘what are we going to do?’

R: Mm.

K: And things just like um, a sense of despair and despondency, and I’m not necessarily talking about -

R [overlapping]: Look, my characters have to come back from like their lowest low, like I’m gonna make that low real fuckin’ low. [laughing]

K: Yeah, exactly, but that’s a kind of intensity too. So yeah, you definitely do not suffer from not having well-built intensity.

R: You’re avoiding my question. You turned it back around on me, as though we needed to analyze me, but we’ve just clarified we don’t need to analyze me -

K [overlapping]: No, no.

R: What do you say to an author who is not me, who needs a little dose of, I guess some me-ness?

K: I’m very much into helping writers solve their own problems.

R: Yeah you do that.

K: Yeah. I find that authors frequently know there’s a problem and at least have the inkling of an idea of how to fix it. I would write them back and ask them, first do you have an outline of your story? If you don’t, well, depending on our timeline here, write one; if we don’t have time for that, I want you to highlight for me what you think the most important points of the story are for the plot. And depending on what was going on, I might tell them I’m gonna do the same. And let’s see if we match up. I like to do that one a lot.

R: Yeah you do.

K: I want them to highlight the most important parts of the plot, and then I’d want them to pull out some areas where maybe it’s more introductory, more worldbuilding, more establishing, and compare how those are written versus the important plot points. And look at your language, look at the way you’re communicating with this, because this is - and I won’t go too far into the weeds on this because it’s slightly off topic, but it is worth mentioning - your language changes when writing intense situations. 

K: The way you describe things, the way characters communicate with each other, the way they take in their scenery, a lot of times you’ll notice writers that do this well have short-clipped sentences that match the franticness of the situation. Minimal description, because they don’t have time to stop and look and describe something. So I would say that you know look at this and if these very important points of the story, these parts where it should be intense where the reader should be concerned and involved and engaged, and you’re writing it with the same tone and cadence that you do with the part where they’re walking through a meadow -

R [chuckles]: The meadow is full of velociraptors.

K: Ugh. You’re describing heaven.

R [muffled]: Stay out of the long grass!

K [laughing]: I’m just picturing them with flower crowns now.

R: Ohhh, they’re so happy.

K: [laughing]

R: Beautiful queens! 

K: [with accent] “Don’t go into the long grass!” 

R: We really just need to admit that this is a Jurassic Park fancast.

K: Yeah we do talk about it a lot. So, I would say that that’s a good place to start. And in terms of like exercises you can do, read it out loud. Act it out! I stood in a room with a manuscript and like held in front of me and like done both parts of the characters and imitated how they would be yelling at each other or what have you, just to make sure that like it sounds okay and it’s coming across the right way. Because if I’m doing this by like kinda like staging a play here,  then hopefully you’re getting that across to the reader. I think also developing your characters and having a good idea of how they would react in intense situations. If they’re acting the same across the book no matter what, well, I don’t know, maybe they’ve got a really good valium prescription.

R: [laughing]

K: You should see changes in not just their actions but their body language, their speech. If Rekka and I were trying to diffuse a bomb right now, I wouldn’t be telling “okay, so um cut the green wire, um,” okay and then like imitating the scene from Jurassic Park where John Hammond’s giving Ellie instructions over the radio and he’s like talking so calm and everything - but that’s a good example because even though he’s talking very calm and walking her through everything, his voice is very intense.

R: And he’s having an argument behind the scenes. [laughing]

K [overlapping]: Yes. He’s having an argument with Ian, but like his voice is very intense. And now granted, movies get to use music to help with this kind of thing.

R: Yeah they cheat.

K: Yeah but if I were having a conversation with Rekka and it was a genuinely tense situation where I’m trying to give her instructions on how to diffuse a bomb - now granted– Okay so we’re getting a little sidetracked here but I just wanna point out Rekka says he’s having a funny argument with Ian, part of the reason for that was the shock value of the next scene.

R: Right.

K: You’re luring the reader into a false sense of security of going like, oh look it’s fine, John and Ian are arguing, Ellie’s got this, and I think - “Mr. Hammond I think we’re back in business!” And then an arm falls on her. Oh no, wait first the raptor attacks her, then the arm falls on her. That’s a good instance of diffusing a situation only to re-intensify it immediately. If I were talking to Rekka and I was talking even in the same tone that like we talk in this podcast, like ‘well you know I guess if you wanted, like, so think about the green wire, think about why the green wire is important to this bomb. And if you take the green wire out what’s going to happen?’ Like that, you know, that’s not a good way to write that scene.

R: Yeah ‘cause meanwhile Mr. Arnold’s arm has fallen on my shoulder and I am flipping out. [chuckles]

K: I always wondered why the velociraptor didn’t eat that, or how that happened. Like -

R: I assume it like got bit off and then went flying and got caught in that little corner -

K: I guess, but like it seems -

R: Look, they needed it to fall on Ellie’s shoulder.

K: I know, but like it seems like it was in like wires, and it’s like how did that get there? Did the raptor go back and -

R [overlapping]: This is, this is going back to the believability of the situation and is it going to suck your reader out of the moment and go, ‘wait, how?’

K: I remember being 10 years old and watching that and going, ‘how did that get there?’

R: I also had that thought but I didn’t linger on it, because -

K [overlapping]: Ah, no.

R: Ellie was being chased by a raptor, dragging a big flashlight, and I was worried like the flashlight was gonna get stuck on something and she wouldn’t be able to keep going.

K: But yeah it’s, that would be kind of where I would start. And if the problems are still persisting, if we still can’t get to a place where I feel like okay I understand that something important is happening, I understand that there’s peril here, I understand that these two characters have left very angry at each other, that sort of thing, then that’s a different conversation. That’s a conversation about writing style and technique. And, that’s harder to fix.

R: You can’t just add six more raptors and fix it.

K: Six more raptors fixes everything, Rekka.

R: Okay. Back up. You can just add -

K [overlapping]: [laughing]

R: - six more raptors; there’s your fix for everything.

K: Yes.

R: But you do have to exercise it with extreme care.

K: More raptors!

R: - because people will pick up if you just do it every time.

K: Yeah. If your solution to everything is add more raptors -

R: Get your own solution -

K [overlapping]: [laughing]

R: - my solution to everything is add more raptors.

K: Yeah that’s, that’s fine.

R: Yeah, I thought so.

K: It solves multiple problems, not just intensity of the situation problems, so.

R: Mhm!

K [chuckles]: I think that’s it. If it’s something you’re struggling with, I hate to say this, but like this is something you just kinda have to work on. It’s one of those style and technique things that, I won’t say can’t be taught because absolutely you can take writing classes that would help you with this, but I think it’s something that also just comes from practice and learning.

R: And I would suggest doing it with short fiction, because that’s a really great way to learn how to control the pedal.

K: Absolutely.

R: To adjust your pressure on your reader. And also to build it quickly, because in a short story you don’t have a lot of room, so it’s a boiled-down condensed version. And also being shorter you get more practice, ‘cause you get to write more of them.

K: Yeah. Definitely. Yeah, that’s my final thoughts on managing intensity in books is: it’s not easy. There’s a reason people who do it well make a lot of money off of it.

R: It’s not like if you aren’t making a ton of money off of it that you’re no good at it. To that point, pick up a book and see how someone else is doing it.

K: One of the best ways to get good at writing is reading a lot.

R: Yep. And steal everyone else’s tricks. Except mine; the raptors are mine.

K: Only Rekka’s raptors. Ahh, that’s what we need, a book series called Rekka’s Raptors!

R: Vick’s Vultures but -

K: I know.

R: But it’s dinosaurs.

K: I’m already unfolding it in my head, trust me.

R: Oh yeah.

K: [laughing]

R: Send me the outline. [giggles]

K: See this is the problem is, I have all of these ideas of books that I would love to exist in the world and I need someone to write them for me. [laughing]

R: That’s what I said, send me an outline, I work really well off an outline!

K: Yeah. So I think that’s, that’s the end of the episode. Hopefully it wasn’t too much for you.

R: Even if it’s not the end of the episode, we’re done. [laughing]

K: Yeah. I think that -

R [overlapping]: The raptors got us. We’re in the long grass.

K [laughing]: Does he say ‘the long grass’ or ‘the elephant grass?’

R: You know what? I recently read an article about how we all remember lines differently -

K [overlapping]: Yes.

R: - because of the different aspects we’re focused on. So let’s just assume that anybody quoting Jurassic Park to the point where you get the quote, has said it right.

K: Okay. That’s fair.

R: I think that’s like a way to be kinder to other people.

K: Tension! It’s good.

R: The right amount is good. The wrong amount is bad.

K: Yes. I can’t even say in moderation because sometimes it’s not moderation that makes it a -

R: Sometimes the whole point is not moderating it. Except moderating the effect that you want in terms of, ‘hey, I the author have control and am moderating how much I want,’ there. That’s -

K: Yep.

R: That’s the moderation that we’re talking about. [laughing]

K: Exactly.

R: We should stop.

K: [laughing]

R: This episode isn’t going to have a nice end, it’s just going to -

K: Ooh, maybe it just cuts to black mid sentence. [laughing]

R: Well that’s not a great pressure valve on your tension. Yeah no, let us know how this episode needs to end. You can @ us on Twitter and Instagram @wmbcast, you can find us and all our old episodes at wmbcast.com. Please remember to subscribe, please remember especially to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, and if you somehow just really wanna support my love of velociraptors, you can go to Patreon.com/wmbcast and send us some financial support, and I promise I will spend it on dinosaur plushies.

K: Oh, I was gonna say velociraptor food.

R: Well, I am the velociraptor food.

K: Which now that I’m saying it I think is just goats, so. [laughing]

R: No that’s T. rexes, and it didn’t work anyway.

K: Yeah, they dropped the cow in the velociraptor.

R: Yeah that’s true - oh wait am I a velociraptor? Because I’ve been eating cow this week.

K: You have, yeah.

R: Hmm.

K: Hmmmm.

R: We’ll have to investigate this in a future episode.

K: Hey, because the mystery is building tension.

R: Yeeeah, that’s it.

K [laughing]: Alright everyone, thanks very much for listening.

R: For your indulgence.

K: [laughing]

R: Take care everyone!