On the Edge of Your Seat

If you asked me for my best writing tip, there’s really only one that I’ve never seen elsewhere, at least not in that form: Write on the edge of your seat.

I don’t mean whipping out a sharpie and scribbling on your office equipment, of course. What I mean is: Go where the tension wants to lead you. And, yes, how you sit on your chair is a great indicator as to where that is.

When I park my whole behind on the seat and lean back, I’m way too comfortable. I might sluggishly type along or mentally shut down. When my butt barely stays on the chair, I have to lean forward, lean into the story, and really “get in there” to see what’s going on — and what needs to happen next.

That’s what we do when we’re interested. Intrigued. Brimming with curiosity. At one point in King of Queens, Douglas makes an enticing proposition to Arthur, his live-in father-in-law, and with a twinkle in his eye, Arthur says: “Well, to that I say, I will lean forward with interest.”

That’s exactly what happens in the cinema, isn’t it? You’re not nestled into your chair when Batman is hanging off a cliff. You’re holding on to the rail or seats in front of you, ready to jump into the screen! That’s the spirit in which we should make art.

A lot of writing advice will claim to tell you how to “keep your audience on the edge of their seats.” Actually, it’s really simple: You have to be on the edge of your seat while you’re writing. Or recording. Or drawing. That’s whose level of involvement you should worry about. If you’re 100% engrossed in the story, your fans won’t be able to help it: They’ll also lean forward with interest.

Whatever you do in this life, stay on the edge of your seat.