Monday, July 09, 2012

Brick by Brick: Revising a Scene

Lucky you. Since I'm using the same tools to revise a scene, the bulk of this lesson happened in the last post. This post will be short. I'm sure many of you are glad for glad for this reprieve. On to the lesson.

Revising a scene using structure is the same way as writing one, just in reverse. Many times I've had a scene that didn't work. The scene didn't add much to the overall story or bring new insights to the character. I'd get so caught up in the details I'd lose sight of the heart of the scene.

Character X discovers mother's secret life.

Character Y wants to go to the grocery to buy a bottle of gin.

Character Z kisses the hero.

When it should be:

Character X's core beliefs are shaken.

Character Y, once again, butts heads with her need to control everything.

Character Z finally let's go.

Back to the Scofield's definition of a scene, something important happens that can't (shouldn't) be summarized. That's why it happens on paper (or e-ink) in real time. That reason plays into the overall goal of the story. A summary of Aiden seeing Megan for the first time would not have sufficed.



A few days earlier Aiden had saw Megan. The sight of her could still tie his stomach in knots.


Er, no, just no. I skated over very important reasons why a scene happens and why that particular scene should happen at that point in the story. But when a hero and heroine meet in a romance, the reader should know why this match-up is a catastrophe. The reader needs to know (maybe not know know) what stands in the characters' way of a HEA.

In See Megan Run it's the simple fact they used to date. They were one step away from getting married. Everyone assumed it would happen, but Megan just up and left. There would have been no story to write if Aiden didn't care.

Seeing Megan again was a big event and there was no way I could have gotten away with the above. It's like writing an erotic romance and closing the door on every single sex scene. Not only are you going to piss off readers (and really you're lying to them about what the story IS), but you're shortchanging the hell out of your story. A scene with the character seeing their ex for the first time in twelve years, that he's still in love with, needs to happen on the page. /soapbox

Questions to ask yourself:

Did I write a scene that needed to be summarized?

Did I summarize a scene that needed to be written in real time? (If I cut out this scene would no one miss it? Would no one think, hey, what the hell?)

If you have those questions answered and the scene still isn't working, look at the simple structure:

Who is the protagonist?

What does she want?

Who/what stands in the way?

What does the antagonist want?

Why does the protagonist stand in the way?

As the scene stands, how does it play into the overall goal?

Did I stray from the heart of the scene?

Did I reveal character or story?


Next up I get into truly, truly murky waters—turning points. They are a little more understandable than beats of a scene, but these are wily suckers. And, we're back to epically long posts. This might be the longest one of all of them combined. Yeah...

Tip: For those really organized souls, you can create a simple spreadsheet to keep track of scenes. You can include the scenes protag, antag. A short description of the heart of the scene and the result.
As usual I'm more than open to questions or outright disagreement. Do so in the comments.

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