You have read through your manuscript and scrutinized your dialogue, so what’s next. It’s time to edit the most important building block in the story. What is the most important building block of the story?
No, its not descriptions nor is it the reporting of events that these building blocks.
You could argue that it was characters, or the plot that are the basic building blocks, but it is not. Yes, they are important, but I think of those are more like the clay and mortar of the novel.
Scenes are the building block of the story. They are the energy of the story. They are about events that occur in a specific place.
Scenes are a Moment in Time
Scenes are where your characters are in a specific time, a specific locale and where they are doing things that move the story forward toward the next scene and the next act.
In this edit, you’re making sure that each scene does exactly what the previous statement says. Nothing more, nothing less. Anything that doesn’t fit that description must be eliminated as fluff. Does the description of the paintings on the wall add to the tone of the scene or is it just filler? Does describing the weather foretell of what’s to come in the scene. (Like describing a small cloud on the horizon eventually becoming a storm). Get to the point, show up what is happening to our characters. Paint us a picture of what is happening to them. Can you picture your scene like a scene from a movie? If not, try it. Write what you see in action terms. Look at your next scene. Analyze and correct that scene and connect it to the previous one with narrative.
Yes, thinking can be a scene and so can dialogue, and remember you don’t want your characters just to be talking heads. They have to be doing things too, like a woman kissing a man, cleaning the house, and fighting a storm.
Give your readers scenes they can see, touch, hear and wonder over. Write for the senses and emotions and to mull over. Make those locations come alive. Remember that people see, move, smell, taste, and touch their surroundings.
Break Up Monologues
If you’re going to use a scene with a lot of thought or dialogue where either one person is thinking without interaction with someone else or multiple characters speaking back and forth, make sure the reader knows the who, where, and when of the scene. Don’t write from the aspect of a talking or thinking head for two pages. Interrupt that thought with reminders that put us in a place. Remind us why you are showing us why the character is having these thoughts, and then go back to those thoughts.
Don’t give us only talking heads, existing independently of all else (I know, this has been discussed before, but, at this point, be sure that every one of these have been handled.)
If you choose to throw in back story, first show us where the character is, and what brought about these deep thoughts of the past. Does the character walk around randomly thinking of the past? Does he pick up something that relates to what he’s saying? Unless your character is naturally crazy, go for something that sets him off. And don’t forget to let us know what’s happening while the character is off remembering. Ground the character—and the reader—in a place and then do your thing with deep thoughts. Include reminders of place, passage of time, and events happening while the characters talk. For instance, you could show someone smoking and the cigarette getting shorter and the speaker taking a puff.
Show Characters Interacting with Their Environment
Use description in scenes, but don’t just create descriptions. Your characters need to be interacting with their location, with other characters, and their own demons.
Rewrite narrated scenes. Make the story events real. Force the reader to live those events with the characters, to feel their emotions, their pain and their shock!
Be sure that each scene is written from a single POV character who is experiencing this scene. If you’re using deep POV, make sure that your character’s thoughts are not betraying him.
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