Have you considered the importance of doors? No matter what kind of story you’re writing, being able to increase tension in a scene, to get the reader to shift to their edge of their seat, is tricky business. Doors are an opportunity to pause, force the character to take a deep breath. Commit to the next step of the journey.
“Be an opener of doors.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Doors not only shut an opening, they provide a measure of privacy, security even. Ever noticed how characters will often pause before a door – a door that is either menacing in appearance, or leads the character into further peril? That pause, that hesitation, signals to the reader something big or bad or ugly is on the other side of that door. Gates can work in the same way.
Consider the gates to Moria in The Lord of the Rings. The fellowship is forced to pause outside and consider those formidable elvish-wrought doors for a good while. Tolkien describes the doors in good detail, forcing the reader to consider if a place shut so firmly should be opened at all. The company finally open the doors only to find themselves somewhere they realized too late they didn’t want to go.
In the movie, One Night With The King, the queen pauses before the massive heavy doors to the throne room. The King has not summoned her, and if he does not tip his scepter to her when she arrives uninvited she’ll be killed. The doors heave and slowly give way, the queen’s burden as heavy as the doors, providing a dramatic entry.
What about those famous wardrobe doors that lead to Narnia? Not traditional doors, but a portal, a narrow entry to a hidden place nonetheless. Lucy is very careful to describe the doors from the inside, and not shut the wardrobe doors so she could always get out when she wanted to. When Peter and Susan follow her into Narnia, they forget their mother’s childhood warnings and shut the doors in their haste to hide.
And let’s not forget that iconic scene from The Shining when Jack Nicholson’s character hacks his way through a locked door. “Here’s Johnny!”
Rayne Hall in her book Writing Scary Scenes suggests keeping track of all the doors you encounter. Note whether the hinges creak, or the doorknob wiggles. Is the paint chipped?
Can you think of other famous doors or gates from movies or literature?