If I have ever critiqued your work, you have probably heard me say, “Slow down.” In our rush to get the words on the paper, we often gloss over important scenes. We move so quickly that our readers miss important events. In real time, things happen in moments, but on paper — we need to slow it down so the reader understands the importance of what is happening.
If your character hits a parked car while riding his bike, slow it down. Let your character notice the sun glinting off the metal of the parked car’s bumper. As he is flying through the air, let the reader feel the air against his cheek, the warmth of the handlebars as the metal slides through his fingers, the odd sensation of flipping through the air. When he lands, let the reader feel the sharp exhale of his breath as he hits the ground and that feeling of breathlessness as he tries to pull air into his empty lungs. Show it all. The movement of the character’s eyes across the sky line, the tiny brown bird that seems to hover for a moment over his head and then flies on, the tingling in his hands and feet as he tries to sit up, the way the ground tilts and moves under his wobbly legs.
By slowing the event down your reader understands the importance of what is happening. Later, when you refer to the bicyle accident your character experienced, the reader will instantly remember the bike slamming into the bumper of that parked car.
P.S. On Saturday, March 17, I will be at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis teaching my most popular class, Beginning Memoir: Finding the Story. Please let your friends know I will be there. I’ll be back at the Loft on Saturday, May 12, to teach a new class, Beginning Pages. In this class I will be talking about those important first pages and what they need to accomplish — a subject I wrote my critical thesis on during my Master’s program in Boston.