Lately, I've been reading through the final draft of Alchemy over and over again, checking for missed edits and strange formatting. It has taught me something invaluable. One, that my writing partners are brilliant, and two, the importance of wizard's chess.
In Alchemy, Sabrina and Melanie both wrote scenes where the characters sit around and play dominoes,or cards. I remember after they wrote them thinking that was kind of weird. I mean, what was the point? Those scenes don't advance to plot. Bad guys aren't attacking, romance isn't developing. Which just shows you how much I learned doing this collaboration, and also how much I had to learn.
But reading through Alchemy now, I get it.
I see the value in character's sitting around the great room in front of a roaring fire playing chess. No, it's not stopping Voldemort. No, it's not advancing the plot, but more important than that, it is giving the reader a reason to care if the good guys win. It's about giving the relationships and friendships time to breath, time to grow, and time to become real. It's about creating a world of a story that is pleasant to live in.
I'm a big fan of dread. I'm a big fan of creepy bad guys with predatory interests. I'm a big fan of danger, and car chases, and fire shooting out of people's hands. But those big moments only matter when you have time to care whether the characters live or die.
Great relationships, be that friendship or romance, need time and quiet moments to make them real. They need conversations while walking through the woods. They need scenes where the characters make quiche just for fun, they need moments of silence, and a smile at the right time. They need wizard's chess, and Christmas. They need moments of what the Happy Ever After will look like, so that after the story is over, the reader will know what life looks like. Moments of wizard's chess, makes a character live forever.
There's a balance, of course. Too much happy, and the story is over. Too much dread and actions, then the readers might put the book down. You have to paint with light and dark colors. Paintings are often better that way. Clearer at the very least.
Just remember that your readers will have to live in this world you're creating. Make it a pleasant place...sometimes. Or make it the darkest dankest hole you can imagine, and have your characters sit around and play chess. Give the reader a chance to rest inside a book. Give the reader a chance to recover.
And then beat them the heck up.
Sheena is the author of Funny Tragic Crazy Magic (99 cents yo, for a short time) and the coauthor of Alchemy which launches in two weeks.