So it’s hard to write big shocking moments without losing your audience. But here’s a trick: juxtapose the melodramatic with the mundane. Here’s Katniss when her sister’s name is called:
- There must have been some mistake. This can’t be happening. Prim was one slip of paper in thousands! Her chances of being chosen so remote that I’d not even bothered to worry about her. Hadn’t I done everything? Taken the tesserae, refused to let her do the same? One slip. One slip in thousands. The odds had been entirely in her favor. But it hadn’t mattered. Somewhere far away, I can hear the crowd murmuring unhappily as they always do when a twelve-year-old gets chosen because no one thinks this is fair. And then I see her, the blood drained from her face, hands clenched in fists at her sides, walking with stiff, small steps up toward the stage, passing me, and I see the back of her blouse has become untucked and hangs out over her skirt. It’s this detail, the untucked blouse forming a ducktail, that brings me back to myself.
We’re in the same position as Katniss: Only the untucked shirt makes it real to us. It’s too hard to comprehend the horror that a twelve-year old will be sacrificed in a future gladiatorial game. It’s absurd. It’s too big. But an untucked shirt is small. We can comprehend that. It’s real. And if it’s real, juxtaposed with the other, then the other must be real as well.
A twelve year old, telling us about the wild gladitorial dream she just had, wouldn’t mention that untucked shirt. It’s too mundane. That’s the sort of detail you would only notice if you were actually there. So when we see it, we’re suddenly actually there.
The more outlandish your scenario, the more important it is to include little glimpses of mundane details, just to make it real.