One of my favorite scenes in my book, Nobody’s Girl, is the scene that makes my heart pound every time I read it. And I already know what’s going on and how the book ends. The reason I love it is because it does literally make my heart pound. I show sensations in writing, not just tell myself about them.
I love the moments when what I read takes over my mental and emotional processes, and I lose myself in the story. I have no control over my reactions. I cry, I weep, I blush, I whimper, I cringe, I laugh, or even snort.
I can smell, feel, taste, see, and hear the scenes’ sounds, sights, and textures. I can feel that hand of the imaginary character wiping the tears from my cheek or see that tanned fist handing me a tissue.
I can dance to the rhythm of Jack’s drums, feel the humming throb of Jamie’s bass guitar, hear the wah-wah pedal of Joey’s guitar whining away while Jeff’s keyboard sings to me.
And you know what? Those kinds of scenes are my favorites in other people’s books, too. So it’s not just bias towards my own story.
If you’re still working away at your NaNoWriMo novel right now, I challenge you to make the following thousand words really count. Tell your readers every smell, every touch, every sound and sight, every flavor in the scene.
Is that the harmonious tinkling of the Bell Miner bird? Is it blending with the cries of the Magpies as they swoop down, sending your hair into your face as they attack you because it’s springtime and they’re nuts?
Is that maple syrup on the pancakes in the diner just across the Canadian border as sweet and sticky as Suzy remembers from childhood when her daddy used to take her for breakfast every Saturday for their daddy-daughter date, back before he lost his arm in the war and started stinking like a Scottish distillery?
Can your hero really smell the milky spit-up on his shirt? Can he feel the plush red blanket in which his newborn son is wrapped, only two hours after his wife gave birth to him in an elevator when they got trapped by a maniac?
Does your heart stop when your protagonist’s cable car screeches toward a gap in the universe that didn’t exist three hours earlier?
A NaNo draft probably isn’t going to do all that (Kudos to you if yours does!). But you should have an idea for at least a few scenes where you might be able to really add some flavor and life to provoke actual physical reactions (crying, sweating, heart-rate changes, flushing, etc.) from your readers. Keep your final days of drafting it out interesting by aiming for that!
Besides, going into that much detail will add heaps to your word count anyway.