I've heard and read that novels should generally increase the tension and drama across their arc, peaking at the climax. I was curious what everyone is planning to do in their novels to do this.
I only have rough ideas at this point (still have a week to come up with scenes...):
Four main characters are inadvertently returned to the "real" world after spending more than two decades in a magic realm; they leave behind a young child; and they are returned to their fourth grader selves.
The MC's have difficulty readjusting after being away so long and remembering vividly their lives in the other world. They have to deal with the normal drama of fourth grade and their lives with their real world families.
After some time passes, they manage to reopen the door to the fantasy realm, but they have to deal with the time that has passed (time flows at a different rate) as well as the very different situation in the world (they had successfully liberated a part of the magic realm from the frost giant but return to find a completely new threat there)
As they have certain abilities in the magic realm, they feel responsible to help out the descendants of their child and their friends. Some more years pass. They succeed in some ways but fail in others (yet to be determined ;-) ); they are forced to retreat through the door, emerging again as fourth graders at recess.
They return again to the real world, where one of the MC's, Annie Chen, who had found the key that opened the door to the magic realm, discovers that her older (college-aged) cousin had been the first to use the key long ago (and then subsequently buried it on the family farm, where Annie later found it). Annie talks with her cousin and learns that her cousin had had a younger brother who had gone through the door with her--but he was lost in the other world when his sister returned. Somehow the door caused a realignment in the reality in the real world so that only the cousin remembered him; to everyone else, Annie's cousin had grown up an only child.
Sobered by this knowledge, Annie and her friends must now decide whether to risk a further trip through the door. Complicating their decision is a late discovery that the flow of time is not only nonlinear but that they have an opportunity to travel back in time to be with her son and perhaps rescue the world from the other threat (yet to be determined). But if they do this, they may leave their real world families forever; only Annie's cousin would ever remember they existed.
Questions for those who have read this far: do I have a reasonable story arc? Do I need a bigger climax? Is this too dark?
What are the escalating challenges you are planning to throw at your characters?
Are some of you planning to make these up on the fly?