Contributed by Loretta Rogers
You’ve been writing a scene in your novel, the words are flowing and your fingers are flying across the keyboard — and then suddenly, it’s like the creativity gods turned off the light bulb in your brain. We all know the feeling: your ideas have sprouted wings and flown away, your mind feels like it’s laden with cobwebs, and your fingers tap meaningless drivel across the keyboard…okay, I’ll stop with the similes now. But you get my drift.
How do you breathe new life into a dying scene? Ask yourself what are – –
The Symptoms of a Dying Scene:
- Full of action, but nothing happens
- Characters are cardboard, lack dimensions, clichéd, uninvolved, distant
- No identifiable plot point
- Bloated with backstory
- Dialogue is forced and unnatural
- Large chunks of description
- Noticeable lack of emotion, humor, sexual tension or conflict
If uncorrected, any of these symptoms may cause your editor/agent to send the dreaded rejection letter.
A Quick Cure:
- Look for every opportunity to infuse more sexual tension (note: sexual tension is not to be confused with the sex act)
- Include every one of the five senses: taste, smell, touch, auditory, sight
- Replace internal monologues with dialogues
- The notorious “Show” don’t “Tell” e.g. find ways to show emotions and conflict
- Point of View: A) change POV characters, B) Deepen POV
If the Band-Aid cure doesn’t work…conduct a patient interview by answering the following:
- What is the character’s GOAL in the scene and what does h/she do the achieve the goal?
- Why is this scene important to the book–what is the plot point?
- Could this scene be reset in a more interesting environment, place, location?
- How is the h/h’s conflict highlighted in this scene?
- Is this scene appropriate for the time it takes place, or is it dropped in to make the word count?
- Is there a disaster in the scene–what is the disaster?
- If you were to interview yourself, what questions would you ask about this scene?
Recommend treatment: Avoid falling in love with your words.
- Rewrite the scene so the POV character’s goal is crystal-clear to the reader
- Whether internal or external, add conflict that keeps the character from achieving that goal
- Give the character a solution to the conflict, but make it difficult to achieve
Up the Tension:
- Don’t make the goal easy to attain. Add pressure to the character’s goal.
- Ramp up the opposition (villain, lover, clock)
- When ramping up the opposition, make sure the opposing character is believable
Readers’ Despise Monotony–How to Avoid:
- Change the setting to one that affects the senses and increases the conflict
- Avoid having the characters re-thinking or re-hashing out the same ole thing
- Transitioning from chapter to chapter, or from scene to sequel must be smooth
- Begin each new chapter with a hook; end with a cliff-hanger
Setting the Pace is Important. Use this formula:
- In the beginning: create tension; in the middle: intensify the tension; in the end: include a climax and resolution
- Balance POV switches, humor, romance, tension, and scenic descriptions
- Vary the length and structure of sentences and paragraphs.
- Conflict or complication MUST be necessary to the scene. It must move the scene forward, NOT delay it. (“Don’t confuse complication with delay.” ~ Dwight Swain)
- In every chapter, or every scene: continually raise the stakes: make it more difficult for the h/h to reach their goal. Raising the stakes must increase the characters’ motivations.
Falling in love with your words, and refusing to be the physician to your own creation spells: Writer’s Block, and possibly gives you a reason to stuff that unfinished, but promising manuscript under the bed or in a desk drawer. Remember, that rewriting is the best part of writing.
Loretta C. Rogers is a national/international bestselling author of fifteen novels. She writes multi-genre romance novels, and is published by The Wild Rose Press.
Latest posts by Loretta C. Rogers (see all)
- Tax-time for Writers - December 15, 2016
- Don’t Wander off in the Weeds – The Essentials of Writing Romance with Internal and External Conflict - December 1, 2016
- Pacing Your Novel - November 17, 2016