“Ready or not, here I come!”
Those words still send a swirl of anxiety through my stomach– I’ve never been a fan of hide-n-seek, laser tag, or any kind of pursuit game. I like my suspense to occur in books only, not real life!
The bestselling writers easily plug into those familiar childhood anxieties by including a hide-n-seek scene in the middle of their novels. Follow these four steps to create authentic rising action.
1. The Hero gets scared and hides just in time.
As one of the villain’s henchmen approaches the hero, the hero has only a moment to conceal himself, and it couldn’t be in a worse possible location.
- In Harry Potter, the hall monitor comes very close to catching Harry and his friends sneaking out at night: “Horror-struck, Harry waved madly at the other three to follow him as quickly as possible; they scurried silently toward the door. . . . Neville’s robes had barely whipped round the corner when they heard Filch enter the trophy room.” (HP Ch.9).
- In Twilight, Bella does not have enough time to get away from the forest before the evil coven of vampires arrives: “‘Can you make it?’ Carlisle asked him, his eyes flicking toward me again. . . .The whole time I’d been rooted in place, terrified into absolute immobility. . . . Alice and Emmett were close behind us, hiding me.” (TW Ch.18).
- In The Hunger Games, Katniss hides near Cato’s camp after she blows up his supplies: “To say I make it in the nick of time is an understatement. I have literally just dragged myself into the tangle of bushes at the base of the tree when there’s Cato, barreling onto the plain….” (HG Ch.17).
2. The Hero stays quiet and still.
Once in his hiding place, the hero waits it out and tries to determine if the coast is clear.
- Harry Potter: “‘This way!’ Harry mouthed to the others and, petrified, they began to creep down a long gallery . . . The lock clicked and the door swung open – they piled through it, shut it quickly, and pressed their ears against it listening.” (HP Ch.9).
- Twilight: Edward tries to keep Bella concealed among the vampires by telling her, “Yes, stay very still, keep quiet, and don’t move from my side please.” (TW Ch.18).
- The Hunger Games: “There’s no point in leaving my hiding place, though. I’m about as safe as I can be, here at the crime scene. . . . Still it’s a long time before I risk moving.” (HG Ch.17).
3. The Hero tries to get away.
The hero may run to the hiding place, or may “make a break for it” to escape the danger of his hiding place.
- Harry Potter: “‘RUN!’ Harry yelled, and the four of them sprinted down the gallery. . . . They flowed backward – Harry slammed the door shut, and they ran, they almost flew, back down the corridor. . . .” (HP Ch.9).
- Twilight: “Edward’s impatience was almost tangible as we moved at human speed to the forest edge. Once we were into the trees, Edward slung me over his back without breaking stride. I gripped as tightly as possible as he took off . . .” (TW Ch.18).
- The Hunger Games: “I better got out of here, I think. They’ll be making a beeline for the place. . . . Flight is essential.” (HG Ch.17).
4. The Hero doesn’t know where he’s going when he escapes.
When the hero does finally come out of hiding, he is so desperate to get out of there that it hardly matters which direction he takes to do so.
- Harry Potter: “…they swung around the doorpost and galloped down one corridor then another, Harry in the lead, without any idea where they were or where they were going . . . . all they wanted to do was put as much space as possible between them and that monster.” (HP Ch.9).
- Twilight: “We hit the main road, and though our speed increased, . . . we were headed south, away from Forks. ‘Where are we going?’ I asked. No one answered, No one even looked at me. ‘Dammit, Edward! Where are you taking me?’” (TW. Ch.18).
- The Hunger Games: Katniss’s direction is altered in a different way. “. . . I realize escape may not be so simple. I’m dizzy. Not the slightly wobbly kind, but the kind that sends the trees swooping around you and causes the earth to move in waves under your feet. I take a few steps and somehow wind up on my hands and knees.” (HG Ch.17).
Why it Works:
- Preparation: The hide-n-seek scene shows that the hero is not ready for the final showdown with the villain. He hasn’t grown enough to conquer his fears and must hide. This will make it more glorious when he is ready to be brave and sacrifice everything.
- Young Adulthood: The hiding scene also shows the youth of the hero as he struggles with authority and morals. If the hero wasn’t some place he shouldn’t be, he would have no reason to hide. If he was perfect, he would face the henchman. If he was absolutely doing the right thing, he would just turn himself in. The hiding scene exemplifies the hero’s struggle with these forces.
- Rising Action: Finally, this scene is a nail-biter and works to increase the tension during the middle of the novel. The reader is forced to wonder “Will he be caught?!” And that’s good, because we want the reader to care.
The hide-n-seek scene appears about two-thirds the way through these bestselling novels, so let’s put the index card for this scene in Chapter 14 of the master outline. Happy Hiding!