Things Get Blacker and Blacker

In long fiction, scene builds on scene, set-piece on set-piece. The impact isn't isolated, but cumulative. It becomes a story's momentum, its pace (about which, more in Chapter 9.)

Very often, several or even all of the intermediate crises will be disasters, with matters apparently much worse than before. The protagonist will be defeated, though not quite utterly. This increases tension and suspense, acting as build-up for the final crisis. But each of the intermediate crises also should open a new door, present a fresh opportunity, offer a revelation as to the real nature of the problem the protagonist faces. In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, the attic conceals brooding Rochester's first wife, and every crisis in Jane's romance brings her nearer that crucial discovery. Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca is also founded on a fundamental lieā€”that Rebecca, Maxim's dead first wife, was a paragon whom Maxim loved profoundly and now mourns continually. Every major crisis the young protagonist faces unravels part of that lie to disclose the truth: that Rebecca was an unfaithful and unfeeling wife whom Maxim came to hate deeply, perhaps to the point of murder.

To the degree that your plot is a mystery, your set-pieces should provide, not only crisis, but unfolding revelation of a central truth concealed at the story's beginning and not completely demonstrated until the final crisis.

But it's not just mysteries which set-pieces can reveal. Remember, plot involves actions with meaningful consequences. Such consequences evolve, one step at a time. Each set-piece (after the first) should be set in motion, at least in part, by what happened in the previous one. This present scene should dramatize and arise from the effects created by what's gone before, and in turn have effects played out in the story thereafter. Cause sparks effect, which in turn becomes cause, right up to your story's end.

Using the existing story as a step from which to find and reach the next level of tension and crisis is what creates unity in long fiction: the feeling that all the parts are necessary to the whole and are meaningfully connected, each with the others.

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