Thursday, October 25, 2012

Scenes? - writing tip

If you enjoyed Game of Thrones on TV, you might like this medieval romance.

Question:  I had an editor read my book and she said I have a lot of scenes where "nothing happens" and I should take them out. To me lots of stuff happens and they are some of my favorite can I tell if she's right?

Answer: Every scene should begin with a solid transition that establishes the moment in time and space, tells the reader who is present, and sets the problem/hook statement in the first or second line. Thereafter the action and dialogue develop until the turning point is reached, then  a final hook for that scene is set, and the scene ends.  

The turning point is always when something changes forever. Sometimes they can be hard to spot. Say for instance a medical examiner is called to the scene of a murder. He looks at the corpse and at the uniformed cop on standby, then says, "He's done it again. This is the same as the last one." 

Now that may seem like not much, but the point of this scene is to let the reader know a serial killer is on the loose, and the ME has done that with one line! Therefore, that line should come at the End of the scene, not at the beginning...

Now if there's no turning point -- the place where something changes forever -- the scene is pointless and can be removed, regardless of how well written it is, or how much you enjoyed writing it and  like what happens in it.

I can give you a perfect example of a pointless scene from my own writing.  In GHOST DANCER there is an Epilogue at the end, where the main characters go and have tea with the heroine's mother.  Now I LOVED writing that scene and readers tell me they love reading it, but it is still pointless. It's a fantasy. It's fun. But nothing changes there. The story would certainly be complete without it.  

I left it in for all the reasons above, and when I sent the book to my first publisher, Connie Foster, I waited for her to suggest taking it out. She didn't, and it's still there.

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