The necessary odd story pivot scene

WHEN YOU DIDN’T REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT A SCENE WAS

I write these posts when I get an epiphany (and interestingly enough, it is set right before the real Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th, 2006).

I did what I always do, and gathered enormous amount of material related to the scene in progress – and went through my usual process of trying to turn the most important parts of what the Reader needs to know at this point into a coherent scene.

Almost always when I get to this point in my writing process (and I’ve written much about that), the scene almost self-organizes, includes some of the bits of dialogue I’ve developed during the process, and gives me trouble until I get it written.

Then I clean it up, check against my lists, run it through AutoCrit, and am usually happy to move to the next one.

And occasionally I get massively stuck

Which drives me crazy, and then drives me to picking apart what I’ve done, writing in my Fear Journal, and generally making a mess of everything.

Until suddenly the subconscious hits me upside the head with a ten foot Pole (to thoroughly mix metaphors), and I somehow figure out what’s wrong.

And then add it to another list: THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.

Or at least expected!

Which are embarrassingly obvious after that point.

Sigh.

Endings and beginnings are fraught

This scene is essentially the last one in this section of the plot. I knew I needed it, structurally, and threw it in, moved some content around, and left it as a stub in my very detailed Scene list in the Dramatica file.

But I did NOT have a rough draft (the very rough draft of everything I have has been proof of my ability to create a story from nothing, and still serves as an anachronistic paper map to the path) for this scene.

Because, in many ways, I was still learning plotting when I finished the first plot (for Dramatica initiates, had my storyform down to 1) and wrote the rough draft to flesh out the ideas. Only Sandy, my long-suffering writing partner at the turn of the century, has seen the rough draft – and I hope she’s forgotten.

The storyform was then revised permanently in the great Reorganization of 2007.

So, I had somehow known SOMETHING WAS NECESSARY HERE,

thrown it into the mix, and moved on to more important things, such as writing PURGATORY.

And of course that’s what landmines are for: to make you sit up and pay attention.

To put this all into something more understandable: my usual process led me to gather enough material for this important transition pivot, but I hadn’t realized it was an important scene.

I thought it was a simple ‘cleanup and move on’ scene.

And of course it did no such thing as self-assemble.

The important ones on whatever scale never do.

Because they’re something new, and you haven’t done it quite that way before, and your subconscious doesn’t know HOW.

So, no template. So, no assembly possible.

And then, in the wondering and thinking and journaling that goes about when I get stuck in these little quagmires, I suddenly realized that we had reached the top of one mountain, the view was spectacular in all directions (see image), and it was going to matter, a lot, exactly how we got down.

For specifics, and so you might recognize it later, we move from the Czech Republic to Ireland. Over the course of a couple bits in several scenes.

And it is a major turning point in not only this chapter, but this book, and the whole trilogy, because the bottom has been hit, and the Reader doesn’t yet know how the characters are going to climb out, because climb out they must.

Apologizing for the contradictory images and the many cliches, I go now to write this scene, somehow, because I have to.

And that’s not bad.

**********

As a question, do you remember your turning points, and how wobbly they felt?

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12 thoughts on “The necessary odd story pivot scene

  1. Janna G. Noelle

    Very relatable scenario. I do a lot (a lot) of plotting as well – for my new WIP I plotted 32,000 words, which is halfway to a short book itself – but I still come up against things I don’t know/didn’t think of pretty regularly. It’s a big stress in the moment but a great feeling of satisfaction after the fact. I hope your scene came out well.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Good thing you didn’t ask until today! It took some serious sorting out – and then self-assembled as usual.

      I had to recognize what kind of scene it was, get thoroughly into Andrew’s pov, live it – and then it wrote itself. I also had to remove a lot of stuff that wasn’t necessary for the Reader to know at that time. Some of that got moved, other stuff just added to the background if ever I find I need it.

      Still ended up long – but I cut and pruned and edited ruthlessly, so it’s not longer than previous ones. Work – but necessary.

      I don’t mind work – once I figure out how to do it.

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  2. Jeanne

    Even in real life turning points can feel wobbly and unrealistic. We like to tell our kids of the 8-hour-car-ride during which we decided that yes, we would like to have children. It was an unlikely conversation and if my life was fiction few would believe we really had it at that point and in that way.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      At 35 I pointed out to my husband that if we wanted children, it was time to try – and wonder what I would have done if he had said ‘forget it.’ We have three great kids, btw. I still marvel at that happening, and will never forget his face when I told him we were expecting.

      Life after that is kind of a blur.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      EXCELLENT image. Yup. And it has to be achieved. Thank goodness we writers can rework the words until they do that, because I could never do it in real time in real life.

      But I’m rather good at nudging them until they’re right.

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. acflory

    I’m barely a hybrid plotter but I know /this/ scenario oh so well. And like you, I’ve come to realise that it’s these scenes that end up being some of the most pivotal in the story. Suddenly an awful lot hinges on getting things e.x.a.c.t.l.y. right.
    I know you’re not in a happy place at the moment, but the scene will be what you need it to be…soon. -hugs-

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Happier than when it was not behaving and self-assembling as it’s supposed to at that stage in the process!

      At least I’m past wondering why my brain isn’t working. It is, just not at my command. It was slowly ruminating.

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. Chris

    As you implied in your text, the process is often subconscious (if not unconscious!), in that we realize only later that a certain scene was pivotal.

    Partly because of experience, partly because of writing literary fiction (which is more abstract and non-plot-based), and partly because I’ve taught myself to contain massive amounts of contradicting information in my head, the temporal distance between creating such a pivotal scene (either mentally or directly; writing it) and realizing it’s pivotal is relatively short. In any case, this temporal distance doesn’t matter much.

    What does matter is to eventually realize it and shift any narrative weights around, as needed; to avoid what you referred to as “cleanup and move on”.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I should have known, but the damaged brain works slowly in the background sometimes.

      It didn’t take me as long as the last pivotal scene to realize what was going on. I crave the brain I get so few hours with lately.

      Cleanup and move on is not a good use for a scene: any reader who has been paying attention can fill in the blanks.

      But with extreme plotting, I usually catch the pivots much earlier.

      Liked by 1 person

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