Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Drafting in Writing

Although I'm not a NASCAR fan, there are members of my extended family who are. They use phrases like dirty air, back marker, banking, and aero push. 
Dirty Air is the air used and discarded by the lead car.

Back Marker is a car running off the pace near the rear of the field.

Banking is the sloping of a racetrack, particularly at a curve or a corner, from the apron to the outside wall. Degree of banking refers to the height of a racetrack's slope at the outside edge.

Aero Push is when following another vehicle closely, the airflow off the lead vehicle does not travel across the following one(s) in a normal manner. Therefore, downforce on the front of the trailing vehicle(s) is decreased and it does not turn in the corners as well, resulting in an "aero push." This condition is more apparent on the exit of the turns.
 (These official definitions were taken from 

So what does this have to do with writing? 


How do you add suspense or drag out a scene without boring or traumatizing a reader? Just the other day, Shannon Whitney Messenger had a great post about the subject of lingering. 

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the plot and subplots we forget to take each scene on an individual basis. 

  • what can I do here, in this moment, to make the reader take a deep breath? Pause? Wonder? Linger?
  • should I add an element? Remove one?
  • should I use sarcasm or maybe toss in a reaction that is so unlike this character but calls to a deeper message of inner growth?
  • would repeating an emotion using alternate words be appropriate here?
It's our job to create a Drafting Effect. 

The list of possibles is endless.

Let's quickly take Dirty Air. ~ Maybe your MC has some inner baggage they hadn't thought about in years. It really doesn't apply to the story but could cast the inner workings of this character in an alternate light. Make the reader think, ponder, and question.

We could look at Aero Push as a way to complicate the scene. An example would be your MC needs to get to the bank before the robbers leave because he knows they have his girlfriend. He's running on the sidewalk, desperate to get there, and then a letter carrier on a bike wipes out in front of him and takes out an elderly lady. You could play with this all day.

Just yesterday I was working with a scene that seemed to flow fine. All the elements were there: the MC was in a game, the plot was moving forward, and there was even a little humor and insight into the overall plot line. But somehow, the scene still felt parched.

Then I turned toward the inner workings of my MC and tucked in a little drafting. I added a few nuisances, glitches that would provoke the reader to pause and think, to want more. I teased and taunted a tad. Suddenly, the scene was quenched, and the emotions of my MC leaped off the page.

How do you taunt and tease a scene to get more out of it? What's your method for drafting?


  1. Never thought of comparing writing to Nascar. What a great post. I try to take my ms chapter by chapter...write the ending in a way that the reader feels they have to turn the page. You are so right, it is hard because I do get caught up in the overall plot and tend to lose sight of the little things.

  2. I find getting the right balance tricky. I've had beta readers or crit partners delete my "lingerings" because they disrupted the pace.

    Like Renae, I try to end my chapters or scenes in a way that keeps the reader, well, reading. Doesn't always work though.

  3. What interesting comparisons. And very true!

  4. Love the comparisons. This is great advice on making scenes deeper! Thanks.

  5. Great post, lots to consider about my own scenes! Thanks!


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