Friday, September 27, 2019

Seen, Scene, Sawed

Oh my scene! My lovely perfect scene. Cut to ribbons. The best writing I've ever done. But the fact is, this lovely scene didn't belong in my book. That's why rewriting it didn't work.

My character had changed. He would never, never do what this scene required him to do. It's very upsetting. But when I took a cold hard look at the manuscript, I realized my motivation was to work in an interesting bit of history. That's never a good idea.

There's an intellectual component to writing that complements creativity. I usually enjoy this second phase because all the characters have shown up by then and I know what they are like. They've auditioned and made the cut. Rarely do I throw someone out of a book. In fact, I don't like to eliminate whole scenes either.

But once in a while I have to cry "uncle" and just admit that a scene doesn't belong. Something went wrong.

There are many reasons why scenes fall flat. My first clue is that I keep trying to make it fit and it simply doesn't work. Rather than tossing the whole thing out, sometimes it's a matter of rewriting it in a different character's point of view. This can't be done in my Lottie Albright books because the series is in first person. All of my historical novels are in multiple third person so that format is easier.

Sometimes scenes are simply in the wrong place. The plot flow is interrupted when this happen. Or perhaps a scene would be best presented as a wee bit of back story. Whole flashbacks generally aren't used in modern mystery. Just a hint of the reason for a conflict can be used effectively in the sequel to a scene.

I've done a lot of cutting on the manuscript I'm working on right now. Sadly, a lot of it comes from not from scenes, but eliminating sloppy writing and passive usage. When did I finally understand the importance of active voice? I knew about passive usage with my brain, but not my gut.

There is so much to learn about the craft of writing. I'm in awe of the masters who command language and create scenes so vivid I'm whisked away to another world.

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