Scene Cuts: What Can You Teach Me Today, Lee Child? Part 2

leechildmay1How can a writer cut scenes to raise tension and keep the reader up late at night?

Returning to A Wanted Man, I notice that Lee Child cuts the scene right after the moment when the characters realize that the stakes are ramped up. FBI Agent Sorenson, investigating a kidnapping, says to her investigating partner,

“She’s seen their faces. They’ll kill her.”

Structurally, we’d expect to see our characters react to this raising of the stakes, but Lee Child cuts the scene right there. He doesn’t show the investigators’ reactions because our reaction will be just the same as that of the investigating team. Tension rises even more sharply when we readers feel the fear for the kidnapped woman first hand, rather than second hand through narration.

If the characters’ reactions had been different than the reader’s reaction—for example, if an antagonist felt guilt, calculation or satisfaction about the hostage’s situation, or even if the two investigating characters had experienced differing individual reactions—then wouldn’t our master writer love extending that scene!

Thanks very much for your help once again, Mr Child.


Lee Child, A Wanted Man. Bantam Press, London, 2012.


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