The Big Easy: Writing Effective Pivotal Scenes

Plot Points: How can you write them effectively, especially when the plot point is major to the story? This past week, a very dedicated writer brought her revised chapter into crit group for the third time. She wants it right because it’s a pivotal place in the novel. Not only does the chapter herald the beginning of a major change in the story, the main character shifts her world-view in a big way. All novels have scenes/chapters something like this. Dedicated writers like my friend know it often takes many tries to get it right.
Writing Tip for Today: In revising a pivotal scene, remember that in the best novels, changes occur on many levels. Keep these things in mind as you write the important plot points in your work:

  • You probably won’t be able to accomplish everything in one or two drafts. Be prepared for multiple revisions.
  • Some of the different areas you might consider are the physical, mental and emotional story arcs you’ve presented to the reader. Try tackling one area at a time.
  • A main character’s changes on the emotional level matter most when it comes to getting it right. This is just my opinion, but if you botch this layer of your story, the reader probably won’t care enough about the other stuff to keep going.
  • Don’t try to make these changes too quickly. People usually change their minds and hearts about an issue over time. Start with little doubts, and gradually build up to where the character decides that things must change.
  • Use concerete sensory detail (CSD), inner thoughts and body language to show these changes as they build.
  • Be sure your character’s changes are in keeping with the overall story’s theme and promise.
  • If your changes seem too sudden, consider “planting” or foreshadowing smaller changes in earlier scenes. Readers want things to feel logical.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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