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We writers get a kick out of trapping our characters in awful situations, so it's easy to overlook a story's lighter moments. But they're vital.
- The long-awaited melting of winter in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
- Christmas holiday or the Quidditch matches at Hogwarts
- The Bel Tine festival in Wheel of Time
- The shindig or any of the crew's meal times aboard Serenity in Firefly
- The wedding scene from Lion Heart
Each of those scenes--and others like them--allow us to glimpse the characters' normal lives in between the myriad of wicked plot twists we throw at them. Moments like these are opportunities to do three important things:
- They let readers experience a new, lighter side of the characters. Perhaps even learn something new or uncover a deeper layer of character. This last reason is why the Firefly meal scenes are some of my favorites. We always seem to come away from them with a new bit of history about our crew's time together.
- They let the characters and readers catch their breaths. Even if the next page is right back to action, even if the celebration is interrupted halfway through by a dementor in a space suit spreading a zombie plague...for that split second of calm, it's still a change of pace. Pause points like this help keep the plot flowing. When was the last time you enjoyed a book that was ALL NAILBITER, ALL THE TIME! There have to moments of reflection, moments where you get the information that helps you understand WHY you should be biting your nails in any given chapter.
- They set the comparison for the bad times. There's an old saying that you can't appreciate the light unless you've lived in shadows. The same is true for stories. Without the fun and celebrations, readers can't fully appreciate the gravity of your dark scenes or the frantic pacing of your action scenes. The burning of the Shire wouldn't have been nearly as powerful or heartbreaking if we hadn't seen the laughter, dancing, and cheer of Bilbo's birthday party.
So, next time you've got your MC backed against the wall, facing an angry weredragon with nothing but a hairbrush, try sending them a few happy scenes too. Readers will thank you.
In the meantime, long live summer!