WHEN IT ISN’T AN INTENSE IMMEDIATE NECESSARY EXPERIENCE
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.
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?