I’m a firm believer in scene writing as the best method to bring a story to life. But if your scene is slow or weighted down with extraneous information, it will have a hard time energizing readers to continue reading.
Writing Tip for Today: Three of the easiest tips to improve your scenes are outlined below.
Write Scenes with a Clear Purpose
Without a clear idea of why the scene is included, scenes that are strictly a blow-by-blow account usually fall short. Why? In fiction, you only include events which move the story forward. You can think of this as a game where the game piece is your scene’s purpose. Each time you write one, the Monopoly iron, hat or shoe should move toward “GO!” If it stays in place, or worse, veers off into “jail” or a digression, a scene is likely to read as dull and uninteresting. Know WHY you’re writing any particular scene as much as HOW you write it. Your POV character should enter the scene wanting something, trying to obtain it and exiting the scene having won or lost. Elmore Leonard advised writers to “leave out the parts readers skip.” These kinds of parts include scenes about chit-chat, scenes about traveling from one place to another and scenes where mundane things such as getting up and getting dressed are discussed in detail.
Write Scenes with No Info Dumps
It’s tempting to wax eloquent when you’ve invested so much time into research! But while you drone on about the Spanish-American War, obscure facts about the green-eyed verio or other exposition, the reader has quietly slipped away. If your goal is to teach your reader ANYTHING, please reconsider your goals. Fiction that strives to educate is often preachy and didactic. A wise writer once told me: JUST BECAUSE YOU KNOW A LOT OF STUFF DOESN’T MEAN YOU MUST WRITE ABOUT IT ALL. See we’re not trying to educate although it sometimes happens. The best conduit for learning while reading fiction is through a shift in attitude rather than cold hard facts. Next time you spot some long, blocky paragraphs in your work, check to be sure they are not loaded with fascinating facts no one asked you to tell them.
Write Scenes with Good Dialogue
Lively dialogue which furthers the story is one of the easiest ways to help the reader have an enjoyable reading experience. If you tend to write stilted dialogue, encyclopedic dialogue or speeches, remember that good dialogue sounds like real speech but isn’t. Instead, it’s a way for readers to enter into a scene and experience it more fully. For helps on writing better dialogue, see past posts on The Rule of Three, Avoiding Talking Heads and Dialogue Attributions.