Stop, Drop and Roll: Adding the Crisis Scene

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by Janice Thompson

You’re at the 3/4 point in your novel and facing that all-important crisis scene. The Supreme Ordeal. The Black Moment. The Big Gloom. You know it’s critical to the story’s survival, and you want it to be the best it can be. Still, you’re unsure of how to progress. How does one go about writing a crisis scene, anyway? What does a confused writer need to know? It’s as easy as “Stop, Drop and Roll!”

• Stop the clock. Make the reader feel like time is standing still. Like they can’t possibly breathe until you start the clock again.
• Stop the romance. There’s a time to kiss…and a time to save the planet. It’s time to save the planet.
• Stop the sunlight. It’s time to cover your story in shadows.
• Stop the reader’s heart. Leave him breathless and worried.
• Stop the POV character’s chances of survival. Things have to look hopeless at this point in the story.
• Stop pretending the POV character’s got it all together. Every flaw is now exposed and every hidden motive revealed.
• Stop the cheerful chatter. No time to sound uplifting or cheerful. The crisis scene calls for tense, sobering word choices.

• Drop the plotline. You’ve been building, building, building. Now let it plummet.
• Drop your reader’s hope. Make him think the story can’t possibly work out.
• Drop your POV characters to a physical low.
• Drop your POV characters to an emotional low.
• Drop the lengthy narrative. Crisis scenes call for short, quick dialogue and very little narrative. Cut off words by using -em dashes. Leave off tags. Push aside descriptives. Cut to the chase.

• Roll up your sleeves. Writing the crisis scene is tough work. You need to learn how to do it effectively.
• Roll up (tighten) the tension coil. Tighter! Tighter! Tighter!
• Roll over and play dead. Your character has to face death (death of a dream, death of a romance, death of hope, etc.) This isn’t a physical death, of course, though it might look as if your primary POV character might face a literal death.
• Roll out the punches. Your character’s going to have to come out swinging.
• Roll out the sword! Your character needs to be armed and ready to do battle.
• Roll the stone away from the cave. Resurrection day is coming!
• Roll toward the resolution. Everything has to turn out okay in the end.

The next time you face a crisis scene in your book, just think of these three little words: Stop, Drop and Roll!

Janice Hanna Thompson is the author of over eighty books for the Christian market. She is known for her comedic inspirational romances. Janice lives in Spring, Texas, where every day is a happy day! To find out more about her, visit her site at or visit her on facebook at

Comments 0

  1. AH! This is awesome! My hero, in my WIP, actually did “stop, drop and roll”, I kid you not!
    He jumped his horse, but didn’t give it a good take off, the horse landed, the hero was off balance, he went over the horse’s shoulder and landed head first, then rolled to a stop.

    Unconscious, bleeding and nearly dead.

    Can I get a ‘ta-dah’?

    He lived…

    So did I, I used my own failed wrestling match with a horse as the basis for the scene.

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