Category Archives: WeSeWriMo

When to dump a scene completely

With ice cream, you don’t have to ask where it went!


It’s a high bar, wanting only scenes in a novel that are strong enough to leave a reader breathless.

Quietly or dramatically, a scene has to have a reason for being in the story, and that reason has to answer the question: Why is this scene PIVOTAL?

Yes. Every single time.

Scenes accomplish many things at once

The structure and skeleton of a scene offer a place to hang many hats: character development, plot, theme(s), setting, language, the ability to hold a reader’s attention, emotions… I could go on for a long time, or merely post some of my checklists for things which must be considered.

A scene has to be packed with meaning, symbolism, omens, backstory, forewarning, consequences, and costs.

It has to move the story from where it was to where it has to be, a stepping-stone across a great river.

Preferably subtly.

But the scene itself has to have a primary reason to be in the book, and it isn’t as a catch basin for a whole bunch of important little things the author thinks the reader needs to know.

I dropped a scene

I’ve done a lot of things between the complete rough draft and what will be the final complete draft that included rearranging material, moving things to a slightly better scene for them, altering the timelines enough to change the order, switching point of view to a different character, tweaking the goal.

I’ve considered, for each scene, how best to tell its part of the story.

I’ve combine a couple of shorter ones, split some long ones.

I’d have to go back over extensive lists, but I don’t think I’ve completely dumped one before.

It feels weird – but I’m happy I made the decision to ‘kill a darling.’

I was having trouble writing 34.5.

Since I have trouble writing every scene, this wasn’t anything new or startling. I have many ways of writing myself out of these problems, some suitable when it’s the writer who has a previously-unknown problem (the Journal gets a lot of these long explorations of why) and others which work to get around my physical limitations.

I have those checklists to allow me to explore MANY features of a scene in small enough chunks that I can focus on one thing at a time – by the time I’ve gone through all of those, I have the gathered material for that scene all in one place. Then I have systems to organize it. Then it gels. Then I write it.

I was even in a good mood and had had enough sleep.

The material wasn’t compelling as a whole.

There were specific bits that need to be in the book. There were some really nice bits. And there were all those answered questions and placeholder text bits, including some really decent dialogue.

Then I realized that writing this particular scene bored me

And that I wouldn’t be looking forward to rereading that scene when I reread the book, and would probably skip it.

Telling myself the Reader needed the information, presented in a nicely dramatized way, with bells, didn’t work.

And then I really, really looked at the nascent scene, and I admitted to myself that there were 2-3 necessary pieces, which is why I thought I should group them in this scene in the first place, but that it wasn’t enough to do a good job of surrounding them with a scene and let the reader absorb them painlessly.

It won’t surprise you that it was a villain scene – and I’ve given her plenty of room to express her opinions, follow her thoughts, listen to her justifications.

So I made the decision to cut a scene

And immediately knew it was the right decision.

I found a home for those necessary bits in the following scenes and an epigraph which wrote itself. There isn’t anything wrong with them.

And the chapter suddenly got livelier.

I dug into the next scene, and found it compelling, and found a way to make it heartbreaking.

We’re back on track.

This scene should be a doozy. As they should all be, if I had my ‘druthers.

I can always go back and put it in; somehow I don’t think it will be necessary. I’ll leave it up to my beta reader to notice.


I don’t think this is because I write one finished scene at a time; I’ll find out.

Does any of this ring a bell?


A year of blogging: what did I learn about me, ME/CFS, and writing?

Happy 1-year anniversary to me…

A whole year has somehow gone by since I started this blog in a fit of bravado: do it, or forever hold your peace.

My first post is still true: the only thing I truly fear is being irrelevant. Only time will tell on that one, and finishing Pride’s Children and putting it up for sale.


I have a goal of finishing Volume I this year, and the other two by publication date next year (September). Goals are fuzzy little things, elusive hiders-under-the-sofa. Continue reading

Freedom to write means responsibility

I realized a week ago that I am just as weak – and as strong – as I have been for a long time. Getting a bit more energy to function because of a fortuitous connection to an experiment with vitamin B1 (thiamine), the effort I’m making to walk properly again (to be blogged about eventually), doing a lot more posts during Web Serial Writing Month, and various interruptions from Life have been masking a fact I didn’t want to face: writing is hard work.

Me writing fiction is a delicate thing, easily destroyed, because I have CFS and because writing must have the best me I can manage, which means doing just about everything right: sleep, eating, exercise – and creating a routine which works for me and includes blocking the Internet until I’ve written as much as I can that day.

BTW – today is August 32, 2013.* Continue reading

Incrementalism: the art of fine-tuning change

I call incrementalism a basic principle of life: if you don’t work every day to make it better, it will get worse. ‘It’ can be anything at all.

Not all change can be effected by a sweeping pronouncement: “I am quitting smoking as of now.” “I will never think of him again.”

Instead, most changes fall in the category of ‘a little bit better’ or ‘a little bit worse’ every day. Continue reading

Plot twists and the Moment of Truth – a customer service analysis for writers

Novelists don’t think of themselves as being in ‘Customer Service.’ But we are – we are in business to satisfy our customers – readers – with our work: a constant stream of words, properly presented, for the entertainment and delectation of the person who honors us first with his money and then with her time.

We want to keep that customer satisfied. Basic customer service.

A satisfied customer will:

be happy he spent money to acquire our book for entertainment purposes

be happy she read our book

buy future books from us

tell other readers about our book personally, on a review site, on his blog – in positive, possibly glowing tones

become a true fan

possibly even become a friend.

In contrast, an UNsatisfied customer will, after throwing the book against the wall (TTBATW): Continue reading

Group characters, epigraphs, and Dramatica – a novel use

Dramatica was developed for screenwriters, and some of the features are much harder to implement in a script than they are in fiction, with its variable length and format. One of these is the concept I will call a ‘group character,’ and I will show how I implement a group character using epigraphs.

Most people consider a ‘character’ to be a single entity (say, a human, or HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey) which behaves in a more or less self-consistent way, and either stays the same or changes in a character arc as the story progresses.

Dramatica has a goal: to help create stories which are complete, meaning the argument put forth by the author has been examined from all applicable points of view, and the author has made his/her case for the conclusion presented. Dramatica calls this kind of story a Grand Argument Story (GAS).  Continue reading

The art, science, and necessity of epigraphs in novels

Epigraphs are curious little pieces of text. Almost like roses made out of frosting, they feel decorative – and somewhat frivolous.

My dictionary on the Mac offers two recognized meanings:

an inscription on a building, statue, or coin.

short quotation or saying at the beginning of a book or chapter, intended to suggest its theme

In a novel, epigraphs are used in several places:

at the beginning of the book, a part, or a chapter

as a chapter title Continue reading

Writing the triangle story: bending Dramatica to the writer’s will

I seem to be attracted to writing triangles. My work-in-progress, Pride’s Children, is an adult love triangle. A play I wrote, Tangled Webs, is another triangle story, this time about a young woman who finds out she’s adopted – and is the bone of contention between her two mothers.

I am fascinated by triangle stories: Agnes of God, by John Pielmeier, tells the story of a young nun who has an unexpected child – and the fight over her soul between the Mother Superior of her convent and the court-ordered psychiatrist who must try to figure out how the baby ended up dead. Eleemosynary, a play by Lee Blessing, tells the story of three generations of women in a family.

A proper triangle has two-person interactions between each pairing. The interest comes from the rotating interaction between three characters – if a story is merely that a guy is interested in two different women, and picks one over the other, it isn’t what I call a proper triangle: the women MUST interact separately of their interaction with the man, for it to pique my interest.

So what makes a proper triangle story? Continue reading

Consistent point of view (pov) in writing and revision

In the process of revising the scene I’m working on, I made my self a note:

It’s a credible draft, and everything I wanted to put in there somewhere is there.

But it lacks 1) a consistent pov – Andrew fades in and out

I took a minute to ask myself why I had this thought, and realized that it happens regularly: a scene feels as if the point of view is going back and forth from a general omniscient pov to the first or third person pov I’m aiming for. Continue reading

Using Scrivener to store structure – Scene template, Part 8

Update 10/25/13: If you would like a blank Scrivener file with all this structure stuff already in it, drop me an email address to abehrhardt [at] gmail. I tried really hard to upload it – but WordPress won’t let me, and Dropbox won’t let me make a file public. I have it all ready and will just attach it to a reply email. No obligation whatsoever. Use or modify to suit yourself.


This is the final Scene Template post, and I will discuss where I currently store all the template’s structure bits in my Scrivener file. Scrivener is incredibly versatile – there are places to store anything you can think of. If you’re not a writer using Scrivener who is a plotter, it will all be gobbledegook – with screenshots – and I recommend you skip the whole thing.

If, like me, your current system is getting overwhelming, jump right in. I wish I’d been able to get a copy of someone else’s complete system BEFORE I made the transition, so I wouldn’t have to re-invent the wheel.

There are advantages to having the template on a single page and filling it in as a single file, but, for me, that entailed either burying the structure in the same file as the text (using Word’s Hidden text feature) – or maintaining a second, parallel set of files, and updating that simultaneously. Needless to say, the ‘simultaneous’ part of the updating was often out of date.

And for ebook publishing (my eventual aim), having a Word file laden with buried hidden text would have ended up a complete disaster. Continue reading

Showing character emotions – even more research sources – Part 3

(Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.)

Putting the last touches on body language research:

The ChangingMinds website is a repository of learning about all forms of persuasion and influence.

I’m using the website, which, in its mission to help people understand each other and change each other’s minds, has a wealth of information about emotions and all their interconnections, ramifications, and implications (* and ** – examples below).

Because novelists participate in the job of helping people understand each other, I have found this website invaluable for developing characters. Continue reading

Showing character emotions – more research sources – Part 2

(Part 1 is here.)

I check out what emotions need body language in my handwritten notes and my rough drafts:

I analyze what I have written: Andrew is feeling bad – after all, he didn’t think to ask Grant to keep it a secret – so he displaces his anger at himself by getting angry at Grant, who ‘should have known’ not to reveal Andrew’s business. Andrew projects his own guilt onto Grant. But Grant is a superior – the director in the film for which Andrew is one of the leads – so Andrew must suppress his anger and feeling of betrayal, and his own feeling of guilt. Continue reading

Added PRIDE’S CHILDREN – Chapter 5, Scene 6

This week’s post is Chapter 5, Scene 6 (1.5.6). This is the end of Chapter 5.

You are a quarter of the way through Book 1 – feedback appreciated!

***NEW: I’m looking for a few additional beta readers. Responsibilities? To read each full chapter as I finish polishing it, give me your feedback so I can make necessary changes before it gets posted.

You also get to see chapters before anyone else – but be aware I’m a slow writer (impossible standards, I think).

The chapters are as polished technically as I can manage before feedback, so I hope there will be very few typos or other kinds of errors.

Email me at abehrhardt [at] gmail, and let me know what your specialties are. None required. Writers welcome. I hope to attract a few NON-writers, too. No pressure, time or otherwise – this is a marathon, not a sprint. My plan is to have the whole story, all three books, finished and polished by Sep. 2014.***

PRIDE’S CHILDREN Table of Contents

End of previous scene, followed by the link to the new scene:

End of Chapter 5, Scene 5

“I mean it. Don’t come.” Bianca allowed the raven the last misshapen cube, watched her take wing, settle on a higher branch for the night. How much was it going to cost to untangle their finances? “Concentrate on whatever it is you need to get your documentary.”

“Walk me out?”

Your bags are packed? Cold fury made it easy to avoid a scene. She let him kiss her on the colonnaded portico, lit as brightly as a night set. ‘Always keep control, pet. Choose your time.’ Anyone watching would think she was mollified.

Anyone watching would be dead wrong.


~ ~ ~

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 5 – …his feet part of iron and part of clay…, Scene 6

Copyright by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt 2013.

What would you do with 20% more?

What would it take to make you happier?

People asked this question usually think of money. It is a cliche that most people do not feel wealthy enough – they think that if they had just 20% more money, they would feel secure and be happy.

And most people WOULD be happy – for a while. If they are very careful. If they don’t let their expectations and expenditures swell up to fill the larger abilities.

I may have been granted 20% more energy. Continue reading

Showing character emotions – research sources – Part 1

Nuance, nuance, nuance. The writer’s job is to cause emotion in the reader. Period.

Understanding emotions is the underlying motive for all storytelling, a skill necessary for humans to live in groups. A learned skill, with presets for understanding built into most babies. A problem for people who don’t pick up – or consciously ignore – social cues.

And one of the reasons, again, that there are few writing prodigies – and the few who manage to convey emotions in writing are handling very basic human emotions, not complex ones (IMHO). Continue reading