Does your scene suck?
There, there, Overly-Dramatic Literary Peep. I hear your whimper, and, I–
Hey! Quit banging your head on the table. Enough already. It’s hard to type this column when the table keeps jumping backward a half inch at a time.
Much better. Now one of the best things about writers is that we’re so darn perfectionistic and so seldom satisfied even if we reach it. That’s what keeps us humble.
But if we’re going to get past the dreadful, we’ll have to move from drama to solutions.
Here are the 5 easiest ways to mend a dreadful scene:
1. Give your character a job.
No, I don’t mean a career or a way to make money. I mean, give your character a job in the scene, something she or he needs to accomplish, get done, or prevent.
In fact, give all your characters jobs.
In my experience, authors often kick-off a scene by dropping a character “somewhere” and then waiting to see what happens. So, a whole lotta characters show up places and don’t know what to do.
Hence, nothing happens. (Except for a dreadful scene.)
2. Capture your character’s attention.
Sometimes characters just start noticing anything and everything, and thinking about it at length.
They reminisce at the drop of a hat (or at the drop of an overused expression). They wander around, equally delighted by everything they see and hear, just thinking and free associating.
What you need is a sharp whistle to get their attention and to command them to do the scene assignment.
- Sometimes the sharp whistle will be another character demanding attention.
- Sometimes it will be an ongoing plot problem that shouldn’t be forgotten about for one second.
- And at other times it will be blood. Blood always does a good job and focusing a character’s attention. Just a hint.
Solution: Sharp Referee Whistle.
3. Get Rid of The Dialogue Swamp
If your scene sucks, I can almost guarantee you that your characters are bogged down in dialogue.
They have to do something, right? And they can’t just NOT talk, can they?
Yeah, yeah, but the pull of the dialogue swamp is pulling them under. Sometimes, giving them a job will solve this problem. Sometimes, that sharp whistle will do the trick.
But if those two don’t work, you’re going to have to realize that the entire dialogue stream has to change. You won’t just write yourself out of it. You’re stuck.
So go back to where the dialogue started, and have one of the characters say something totally startling, something so riveting that the other character stops dead in her tracks and says, “What?!”
Now you’ve got something to talk about. You also diverted your characters before they reached the swamp of average, go-nowhere dialogue. Instead, you’re on the firm ground of dialogue that matters.
Solution: “Say, What?!” Dialogue
4. Cut it.
Seriously. If it can’t be fixed, why not write a new scene? Yes, a better one.
Solution: Do Over.
5. Find The Passion.
Got a rise out of you, didn’t I? You say, “But I CAN’T cut this scene?!”
Okay, that’s more passion than you have in your entire scene, and that’s what’s missing.
Give your character something to care so much about that she’ll fight to the death for it.
Yes. In this scene.
Solution: Kick-Ass Passion.
That’s if for today. And, here, have a tissue. It’s time to write.