The Growl Under Your Bed Part 5: The Tease
The manuscript is still early on in the storyline. At this point readers really don't know what to expect. There have been a few throw away lines here and there that will lead readers to believe that the story the narrator was once pursuing was pretty nasty in scope. This story, however, hasn't been bad at all so far. In fact, it has been downright safe. Today I wrote two paragraphs, though, that hinted at how things may go.
The reason the moment is a tease and not an "oh fuck" moment where the reader realizes nothing is safe anymore and anything can happen, is because it is not an essential part of the story. It is not pivotal to the plot. It is just a mood setter.
In the scene, the narrator is talking to a woman whom he interviewed for his first book. He remembers that in the course of writing the book he came across an underground sex tape of her. I name the title of the movie, which sounds just kind of lame at first (I'm not revealing it here), but as you read the description it takes on a whole new meaning (and not the most obvious one). The video is a rough sex tape that starts out consensual, but strays down a more vicious path.
My description of what happens in the video is not very detailed. I like letting readers fill in the blanks. Do make that as effective as possible, though (I do that kind of thing quite often), I take a play out of the Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction's playbook. Yeah, before I even read any James Ellroy, I was cribbing his style. Reading him, however, made me use it more effectively.
Often I will write one word or a really short sentence to get the point across. In this case, I described what could have been a long, drawn out, brutal scene in just a few short sentences (at least in this draft). I feel that lends an air of urgency to things, and lets readers fill in the blanks with the worst parts of their imagination. I'll try it here with a scene to show how it works (you'll be the final judge as to whether or not I succeeded). This is not based on what I wrote, but is something all together separate.
... Bound. Ball gag dripping with saliva. Eyes wide. Trembling. Not from the cold. Breath in short gasps. Not because she's been running. Hair slick with sweat and saliva. Not her own. Blade glistening out the corner of her eye. Something whistles through the air. Cheek is burning. Warm liquid. Thick. Blood. Another whistle. More burning. Her back. Screams behind the gag. Falls to her side. Terror overcomes fear. Bladder releases.
This stopped being fun five minutes ago. ...
Whether or not this scene worked for you, I think you can get the picture. I could've gone into the color of the ball gag, whether or not mascara was running, color of hair, type of weapon used, but none of that matters for the scene. In the beginning you aren't sure if it's a bondage scene or an abduction. The last paragraph ("This stopped being fun ...") sets it up as a bondage scene that got out of control. None of that matters, however, as you already know nothing good is coming from it. Now you just know that there may be even more fear there as the victim thought the outcome would be very different.
The scene I wrote wasn't even mandatory to tell the story, but it was necessary to give readers a tiny taste of what is to come, and to sort of shoot a warning shot over the bow of the ship. "This story may not be heading in a direction you want to go in. Proceed with caution."
By the time I get to the "oh fuck" moment it will be too late. My guess is that by then the readers won't be able to back out. They will be emotionally invested in the characters ... if they let themselves get that far in the story and haven't left in disgust. I'm betting on that, and I plan on tailoring the story to that because once you have a captive audience you can do anything ... with or without a ball gag and a knife.