I assume it’s possible to teach people how to write “excitement” – I imagine it’s a combination of shorter sentences, more direct clauses and description, clustering events together so they come thick and fast, perhaps a sudden change of viewpoint. Or some such set of trickery.
But I’d argue there’s nothing more exciting than the authentic voice of a professional man – say, a British naval lieutenant – describing a calamity – say, the sudden physical meeting of a tired little bark with the sharp immensity of the Great Barrier Reef:
11 June 1770
Monday 11th Wind at ESE with which we steer’d along shore NBW at the distance of 3 or 4 Leagues off ^having from 14 to 10 & 12 fm water – and saw two small Islands in the offing which lay in the latitude of 16Ã‚Â° 0′ So and about 6 ^or 7 Leagues from the Main – At 6 oClock the northermost land in sight bore NB1/2W and two low woody Islands which we some took to be rocks above water bore N1/2W – At this time we shortend sail and hauld off shore ENE and NEBE close upon a wind. my intention was to stretch off all night as well to avoid the dangers we saw ahead as to see if any Islands lay in the offing, especialy as we now begun to draw near the Latitude of those discover’d by Quiros which some geographers, for what reason I know not have thought proper to tack to this land, having the advantage of a fine breeze of wind and a clear moon light night in standing off from 6 untill near 9 oClock we deepen’d our water from 14 to 21 fathom when all at once we fell into 12, 10 and 8 fathom Ã‚Â Ã‚Â At this time I had every body at their stations to put about and come too an anchor but in this I was not so fortunate for meeting again with deep water I thought it [check MS] ^there could be no danger in stand.g on – before 10 oClock we had 20 and 21 fathom and continued in that depth untill a few Minutes before a 11 when we had 17 and before the Man at the lead could heave another cast the Ship Struck and stuck fast – Emmediatly upon this we took in all our sails hoisted out the boats and sounded round the Ship and found that we had got upon the SE edge of a reef of Coral rocks having in some places round the Ship 3 and 4 fathom water and in other places not quite as many feet – and about a Ships length from us on our Starboard side / the Ship laying with her head to the NE / were 8, 120 and 12 fathom, the next thing we did was to Ã‚Â Ã‚Â as soon as the long boat was out we struck yards and Topm:ts and carried out the stream Anchor upon the starboard bow. Ã‚Â got the Casting anchor and cable into the boat and were going to carry it out the same way, but upon my sounding the second time round the Ship I found the most water a stern and therefore had this anchor carried out upon the Starboard quarter and hove upon it a very great strean which was to no purpose the Ship being quite fast upon which we went to work to lighten her as fast as possible which seem’d to be the only means we had left to get her off as we went a Shore about the top of High-water – we not only started water but threw’d over board our guns Iron and stone ballast, Casks, Hoops staves oyle Jars, decay’d stores &Ca many of these last articles lay in the way at coming at heavyer – all this time the Ship made little or no water. At a 11 oClock in the AM being high-water as we thought we try’d to heave her off without success she not being a float by a foot or more notwithstanding by this time we had thrown over board 40 or 50 Tun weight, as this was not found sufficient we continued to Lighten her by every method we could think off Ã‚Â Ã‚Â As the water began to Tide faell the ship began to make water as much as two Pumps could free Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â At Noon she lay with 3 or 4 Strakes heel to Starboard – Latitude Observed 15Ã‚Â°..45′ South Ã¢â‚¬â€