Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How Do I Write Meaty Scenes? Part Two

Happy Wednesday, my writing friends, 

The cheeseburger's back! Last week we started a two-part series on writing meaty scenes. We discussed the problem of a nowhere scene going leaving readers yawning, and to help, talked about two dos: Do Be Relevant and Do Create Conflict (Internal and External).  Now we move on to one more do and a don't

Do Move the Plot Forward
Sometimes I can tell a scene was written simply for character development. For example, the author thinks readers need to know a protagonist struggles with selfishness, so a whole scene revolves around this. I relate to this desire, but character development alone isn’t enough to carry a scene. 

It’s just more fun to weave those traits into action that moves the plot forward. Think of Star Wars (my kids are playing the Wii game at the moment). We find out about Princess Leia’s spunky, stubborn, smart character as Han and Luke rescue her. The plot plunges ahead and we learn about this new kind of princess at the same time. 

Don’t Repeat Yourself
“I already know this!” I read a book recently in which the character was described as timid and afraid of being hurt because of something in her past. Interesting. I can get behind that. 

But then throughout the book, the author told (notice I said told not showed) us this over and over again--every time the character appeared. It was too much. It's okay to introduce the character with a little introspection, but after the first time, character traits should be shown through plot-advancing action. 

I understand this desire. Particularly with traits I think vital, I'm tempted to repeat myself--beat the point into the readers' heads. But I try to remind myself that subtlety is best. I can trust readers to get it. 

I've seen tendency show up in other areas too. Sometimes it’s as simple as eye color, or a character’s favorite ice cream—anything.

I need to remember that everything I write communicates to readers. If I mention the heroine’s blue eyes in scene one, I don’t need to mention it again for a long while (as a reminder). 

Well, are you stuffed? I'm hoping you've gotten a good slab of meaty information to beef up those scenes. Let me know how these work for you or share your ideas. I'd love to hear. 

God bless and happy writing, 



  1. Hi Ocieanna, I am pretty bad at repeating myself! And I just reviewed and deleted a scene because of the very thing you mentioned. It was a frivolous waste of words written just to get in a real life event and show, again, what my character was like. But as I read it over and over, I knew it had to go. Oooh, hard to cut those things!

    1. Yes, it is hard sometimes to "kill our darlings" but I've found it feels good in the long run. Good for you for doing the hard work of editing! Thanks for your comment.

  2. I notice an awful lot of repeating information by writers who have cranked out book after book for years. Maybe that used to be more acceptable? I subscribe to the theory that if information gets repeated, it had better be critical to the plot.

    1. Thanks, Lesley. Good point. I totally agree with your theory!


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