In fiction writing, our characters are faced with challenges, setbacks, and failures on their way to meeting their goals.
These are the opportunities for us, as writers, to raise the stakes for heroes and heroines, but we often wimp out with weak phrases and modifiers that can dilute a dire situation.
Rather, we should express the current state of affairs bluntly and with no mercy.
A wonderful example I always think of - though it's a TV series rather than a book - is in Pride and Prejudice, the BBC mini series. Elizabeth, in the presence of Mr. Darcy, has just learned that Lydia has run off with Wickham.
After Darcy makes his excuses and abruptly leaves, Elizabeth says, "I shall never see him again."
I beg pardon of Miss Austen, but this is so much more powerful than what she wrote which was that the couple would likely not cross paths again.
To over emphasize every emotion or reaction of a character is campy, melodramatic and/or hyperbole, so use it judiciously to punch up key turning points.
What the character is feeling or thinking is often not the truth, but the truth as they see it.
Below are sets of sentences which illustrate what I'm talking about. The first sentence is fine, while the second heightens the drama.
Fine: John's head pounded. He'd probably just blown the interview with his stupid comment.
Better: John's head pounded. He'd blown the interview with his stupid comment.
Fine: Jason looked at Alisa with such disgust, she imagined he was through with her for good.
Better: Jason looked at Alisa with such disgust, she knew they were done for good.
Fine: The fire lit up the night, roaring as it seemed to devour everything in sight.
Better: The fire lit up the night, roaring as it devoured everything in sight.
Fine: Colton signaled for the wagon train to halt. It would be tough crossing the raging river.
Better. Colton signaled for the wagon train to halt. It would be impossible to cross the raging river.
Fine: They ate the last of the food, and drank the last of the water. Karen wondered how they'd make it through the night.
Better: They ate the last of the food, and drank the last of the water. Karen knew they wouldn't make it through the night.
See if it makes a difference in your story.