Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

Looking at scenes May 11, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:28 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I have too many nice scenes where nothing really happens! Or stuff does happen, but the characters don’t seen to be driving it, they’re reactive all the time, rather than active. I wrote stuff that I hoped would move the story forward and keep the focus on the central relationship, but there’s no sense of the characters having goals, and the conflict is weak.

I haven’t really done any editing or rewriting yet, there are too many scenes that needs to be cut and replaced, or extensively rewritten. This is not a bad thing! My new plan is to spend the next few weeks digging into the first draft, and coming up with a roadmap to fix what’s wrong with it and keep what’s good about it. Then I have five days off to spend intensely rewriting. The write-a-thon worked so well, it’s time for an edit-a-thon!

I’ve been working through the story, scene by scene, making notes, trying to get a handle on what I’ve got and how I can make it better. I’ve been using a simple scene checklist I modified from ideas in a workshop I’ve done (can’t remember which now!) to keep me focused on making things happen in every scene.

It goes

Who?

Where?

Action-

Reaction-

Decision-

Edit notes-

 
Simple and to the point.


I was in the bath, thinking about this afternoon’s work on the story, and I wondered if I should make it even simpler for a conflict thicko like me to understand. Like this-

What does the POV character want?

What is he/she doing to get it?

What stops him/her getting it?

What does he/she decide to do about it next?

Which is just Action-Reaction-Decision, but in a form that I can grasp easier. Also reminds me that escalating conflict and tension mean that things keep getting worse no matter that the main characters do to try to fix things. I need to be able to answer those questions for every scene.

I’m going to give it a try when I’m planning what I want to do for the rewrite.

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3 Responses to “Looking at scenes”

  1. Your strategy sounds like it would really work. I’m currently working on a manuscript and I would like to use it. It is my experience that the simplier the concept the more user-friendly it is.

  2. Eileen Says:

    I once had a teacher who said the most basic unit of the story was a desire – obstacle to the desire – overcoming obstacle. It’s another way of thinking of action – reaction – decision. Hope it helps!

  3. waitingforthecall Says:

    THat’s it, exactly, Eileen!


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