Take Your Character’s Pulse

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Take Your Character’s Pulse

The emotional arc of a story is just as important as the narrative arc; it’s just harder to see sometimes. One way to check this emotional or inner conflict arc is to consider scenes one at a time. First mark off one scene in your manuscript. Then, identify the emotional pulse of the scene.

Is there a question that needs an answer?
Does an emotion underlying all the action of the scene?
Does the characters’s emotional state differ at the beginning and end of the scene?

For example, this is the second and third paragraph of the opening chapter of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy :

“Turner Buckminster had lived in Phippsburg, Maine, for almost six whole hours.
He didn’t know how much longer he could stand it.”

The emotional stakes are clear! He doesn’t want to move to this town.

Often you can identify the exact place where the pulse of a scene quickens. Look for it and strengthen it. If a scene lacks a pulse, find a way to make the emotional arc stronger.

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