It's not--at least it wasn't for me.
In an early draft on my MS, one of my CPs gave me a note about lingering. Specifically: You need to learn how to linger. Then she marked everywhere I didn't linger, and should have, and the places where I had lingered, so I could see the difference. It was one of those, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhh!" moments.
Now I rarely get that note (don't worry, I get plenty of others to make up for it--my early drafts are hopelessly flawed) but the funny thing is, I find myself giving it to others when I critique. So since I can't critique everyone--and since I promised you guys a proper post yesterday--I thought I'd use today's post to give pointers on how to know when to linger in your draft.
Here's what I look for:
- big changes in the character's life
- stressful moments
- moments of revelation
- moments of doubt
- moments of fear/worry
Do you see the pattern?
Basically, it's anytime a character would have a lot of crazy thoughts and emotions swirling around inside them. Doubt. Fear. Anger. Confusion. Even positive emotions fit the bill sometimes. And I know it seems obvious to play those moments up--but it isn't.
The thing is, most of those moments are accompanied by BIG HUGE PLOT STUFF, and we either get so distracted by telling the plot that we forget to slip inside the character's head, or we feel like we'll slow our pacing if we stop to let the character digest what's going on. But it doesn't slow your pacing. There are of course exceptions--but this post would get really long if I tried to address them, so let's just deal with the majority right now. And the majority of the time you actually help your pacing by lingering for a minute.
Because when you have BIG HUGE PLOT STUFF going on, it's easy for the reader to get a little overwhelmed--to get so caught up in what's happening that they forget to feel what the character is feeling. And if your readers stop feeling for your character, your tension disappears soon after.
So taking a minute--not a lot, a few sentences often does the trick--to put your readers in the character's head and let them feel what the character's feeling actually amps up the tension. Sure, they might have been a little nervous before, but now that they know just HOW freaked out or worried your character is--well, now they can't put the book down until they know the character's okay.
Lingering also heightens anticipation. The fear and doubt before the big game or big test. The stress and worry before making a big decision. Even a the hesitation before the epic first kiss. It might slow the moment down a few sentences--but it actually makes the reader more interested, more excited, and more unwilling to stop reading.
So yeah, if we want to make the maximum impact with our drafts, we all have to learn to 'let it linger' sometimes. The Cranberries may have disagreed, but we do. We have to. We have to let it linger. (and those of you unaware of the awesome of The Cranberries should school yourselves here).
But what about you guys? Do you have problems letting it linger? Or how do you know when it's time to drag a moment out a little to earn maximum impact?