In every round of revision (and I think I must be on the fifth round at this point), I’ve toned down the drama in my book. Whereas in the first draft it was all rape and violence and expulsion, at this point the drama is more like, “She said something mean about me behind my back” or “He isn’t making an attempt to understand my feelings.” It’s tea party drama.
And I like it that way!
It is very easy to make everything big and grand, but I find that creates two problems: one, sometimes you create something way more dramatic than the emotions you’re dealing with; and two, you often have to waste a lot of words writing about the mechanics of things you don’t care about. For instance, if someone has a physical fight, you need to write in a physical fight. Personally I don’t love writing fights. For me it’s boring. Whereas if people have an argument, all you need is a brief exchange of words.
In real life, we’re often affected by such small things. Recently a friend told me they’d cried all day over something that’d happened in therapy. That’s real life. It’s not all arrest and crime and bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s a cutting word or a misunderstanding. Of course, sometimes it’s not. I think because I came up by writing science fiction and fantasy, I’m too ready to reach into my box of big, dramatic events, and now I’m learning to find other ways of creating drama and raising tension.