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Nothing Happened

Estimated Reading Time: 2.89 minutes.

A tiny and brief moment before the kiss ended and Alexis was left looking at him with her head spinning in confusion. There had been no lion roaring in her chest, no instinct to take it further or deeper. No desire whatsoever for more.

Alexis felt her face screw up as she wondered if she really did care about him. She felt guilt for pushing him towards this, for all the things she had said over the years.

Did she care about him as more than a friend? Was the idea really all she'd had?

Then she found herself turning to the actual question that the kiss was supposed to answer. It hadn't felt like he loved her. It hadn't felt like he disliked her, either. It was just a kiss. There was nothing special about it, either way.

Was this just because of Dawn?

Alexis eased off him and stood up, "Huh. Um... Hmm."

"I know." Matthias said, his forehead creasing, "That... Wasn't what I expected, either. I don't know... It should have been... More?"

In Dawn's Embrace, Chapter 5, Dyeus' Day

One of the biggest temptations in writing is to go for broke.

You slowly build up to a moment, something you hope that the reader has been waiting for with anticipation, and when the moment arrives you try and top all that anticipation with something amazing.

Often times this falls on its face - anticipation is strong than the climax. So you then have to go back and rewrite the build up to be more subtle.

There's nothing wrong with that.

However, the real world doesn't work like that, and if you want to bond your reader more to a character, it shouldn't work like that either. We are not just a collection of our triumphs, but also our disappointments.

In the above example, the reader has been waiting roughly 20,000 words for Matthias and Alexis to actually test if their relationship can be more than friendship. So when they finally do, and the sparks don't fly, the reader should feel the disappointment as keenly as the two.

Badly written, it can be a massive turn off to the reader. They can feel manipulated or ignored by the authour, or just plain bored. Well written, it humanises two characters living in a world very unlike our own, who had to continually make choices unlike our own.

Being able to share an experience makes it easier for the reader to connect to the character, enhancing any and all emotional responses further down the line.

Nothing happening can be a much stronger event than something happening.

The non-event can be a catalyst for the story changing direction, for a character losing their sense of self, and all the usual things that can result when a person's expectations aren't met.

When we fail to meet our own expectations we can go through worldview resets and self-identity implosions, from the very simplest of things. The more emotionally invested we are in the expectation, the more it can have long lasting ramifications and drive us down unexpected paths.

The people we create get to reflect that.

Whilst the universe may actually be written for and revolve around the characters we create, it doesn't mean it should feel that way for them, or for the reader. When everything is special, the reader's expectations adjust accordingly and you lose out on being able to deeply invest into their emotion. Words begin to lose their meaning, danger begins to feel common place, and grief is lost.

The greatest characters are ones for whom the ordinary is still ordinary, and the extraordinary is still chaotic and unpredictable.

A hobbit standing up to a dragon doesn't feel like a king going through the motions.


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