How Much Tension Can You Create in Just 3 Sentences?


Jillian Green DiGiacomo's photo.
I survived my visit to my high school alma mater last week.  It was a bit of an out of body experience to set foot in the building after so many years. But it was a blast hanging out with the students.  As I mentioned in my last post, I was asked to discuss the best ways to build tension when writing fiction.  I gave a modified version of the balloon theory and then introduced the literary device of a time clock: a deadline, a ticking time bomb, a damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks are all literary time clocks that help keep a reader riveted. Fiction can be engaging if, for example, two characters may or may not eventually fall in love.  But if one character is to be married within a matter of hours or shipped off to war at daybreak or turned into a werewolf at sunset, that love story is now bursting with intensity.
So, gave each class about 10 minutes to write a 3 sentence time clock: a mini scene with a built in sense of urgency. The students came up with their own brilliant time clocks: they wrote about an avalanche, a basketball game, a child locked in a hot car, and a race for the last brownie at a bake sale to name just a few.

Give it a try. Limit yourself the to 3 sentences and see just how much tension you can create. Then share it here please!!

All Good Fiction is Excruciating


I am heading to my high school alma mater later this week to talk to the students about writing.  The classes are working on writing short mysteries so the teacher asked me to talk about building tension in a scene.  To me, whether I’m writing a love story or a murder mystery, the one thing I aim to do is make my writing excruciating. When I say “Make it excruciating” I don’t mean write something so bad that no one could possibly read it.  Though, believe me, I have  written my fair share of excruciating prose that, for the sake of humanity, will never see the light of day.

By excruciating, I mean, I try to remember to slow down and take the time to build a scene, build the tension and stir up the emotion.  For me, a satisfying scene resembles a balloon that is inflated to full, then inflated some more and then just when that balloon could not possibly hold another ounce of air, and one more puff of air.  Now, the balloon is stretched so far that you cringe and move ever so slowly for fear it will pop.  Then, and only at the moment that the balloon is inflated to its absolute limits, you produce a long, sharp, glistening needle. Ever so slowly, you bring that needle closer and closer to the balloon.

Now that’s excruciating!

Does the needle pierce the balloon with a violent pop? Does the needle pierce the balloon through both sides and the balloon remains in tact?  Or, at the very moment the needle is about to puncture the balloon, do you let it go and watch it sail aimlessly around the room until it hits the floor?  Don’t ask me, it’s your balloon.



Predicting the Future of Publishing

I was recently asked what I thought about the future of the publishing industry.  Here is my response:

Historically, authors needed a publisher because it was the publisher who had access to a printer and the ability to take the financial risk required to outlay the upfront cost of a print run.  In this new age of print on demand and ebooks, authors no longer need a publisher to get our literary works out into the world. That’s great!  But as indie authors know, the challenge comes not only in creating a book but in finding an audience with which to share it.  Today, traditional publishing houses still hold the monopoly on access to the large and powerful media outlets.  The New York Times, for example, will not, by their own rules, review an independently published book.  I’m sure they have this policy to stave off the massive wave of offerings that would flood their review department otherwise.  Moreover, many book stores, large and small, only sell books that they receive from a certain small list of distributers who only sell books from a certain small group of publishing houses.  So, today, the playing field is massively weighted against the indie author.  And even those famously self published books like “The Martian” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” only reached their best-seller status once they were picked up by one of the large publishing houses and given the access and exposure that comes with traditional publishing.

But the playing field is slowly shifting. The indie world is figuring it out. More and more quality works are discovered outside of the closed circle of the traditional publishing world and indie authors everywhere are using social media to gain traction in the market.  Many book bloggers today have only hundreds or maybe a few thousand followers as compared to the Millions of NYT readers.  But every day that those reviewers offer honest and useful critiques and recommendations, their audiences steadily grow which in turn boosts book sales for indie authors.  It is an exciting time to be a self-published author.  And I think the future looks brighter and brighter.

Check out the whole interviewI

Laugh Riot Review

laugh riot review

“Codename Cupcake has a happy, casually conversational style that keeps you reading and laughing along with Molly, who has an equally honest and winning way about her.  That’s a good thing because the plot requires a stupendous suspension of disbelief, a leap of fictional faith that spans the George Washington Bridge.   Molly makes that leap fun to take.  And the credit goes to DiGiacomo, who makes this light and airy romp through the mean streets of suburban New Jersey a minivan joy ride.”