Are Your Scenes Dead?

Rip-clipart-rip-gravestone-mdAre your scenes dead, or do they just need a little get up and go? If you want to turn off an agent, front load your work with backstory and boring narrative.

I know from personal experience. That’s what I did. I thought the reader needed ‘a little’ back story before jumping in, so they would better understand what was happening later in my story. The prose was so boring they just chucked it to the side. They never got to the good stuff.

My scenes weren’t working as I intended, they were all but dead. One of the things I’m doing with my current revision is taking a closer look at those scenes. Are they really needed? How can I get them moving?

In order to correct a problem, you have to be able to identify it. What are the characteristics of dead and sluggish scenes?

Dead Scene

  • Contains repeated information. Give your reader a break. They don’t need to hear the same thing over and over.
  • There’s no conflict. What’s the purpose of this scene? It’s only adding word count but no meat.
  • A scene whose sole purpose is to set something up. This is the one I fell into. I wasn’t giving my readers the credit they deserved. I thought I had to spell everything out for them.
  • A scene lacking a goal. Why is it there? Where is it going?
  • A scene that doesn’t encourage your reader to turn the page. Words are your weapon. Leave the reader wanting.

 Sluggish Scene

  • Too much casual chit chat. Remember dialogue isn’t conversation as we know it. It has to move your story forward.
  • Too much description and narrative. Provide the reader with what they need, and don’t bog them down in what you consider interesting facts and details that aren’t necessary. The story should not stop to allow you the opportunity to show off  what you learned during research. Who cares how many gold buttons ran down the back of the heroine’s gown. Unless it’s involved in a crime scene, don’t do it.
  • Not enough emphasis on the scenes goal. Each scene should have a purpose. Don’t wonder off on tangents unrelated to what you are trying to convey. Keep your eye on the target.
  • Not enough conflict. The reader needs a reason to pick up your book. They are looking for action. Even Cinderella had an evil stepmother determined to keep her from the prince.
  • A scene written from the wrong point of view. This is another one I’ve struggled with. Maybe the scene should be from the heroine’s point of view versus the hero. She may be able to provide more insight into what’s going on in that particular situation.

Some things to look for and think about. Hope this helped.

-Jan R

Are Your Scenes Dead?

5 thoughts on “Are Your Scenes Dead?

  1. Excellent points, especially about not frontloading your story’s opening with backstory and every scene needing a goal. I will need to double-check my scenes in my current WIP to be sure I’ve followed these guidelines. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Too much casual chit chat. Remember dialogue isn’t conversation as we know it. It has to move your story forward.”

    Thank you for this “lightbulb” moment. Now I understand how one of my “weaknesses” in real life can be one of my strengths as a fiction writer: I don’t do “casual chit chat” (I can, but I hate it, and it doesn’t feel natural to me), because of how my brain is wired, so I don’t write that sort of dialogue, either.

    Liked by 1 person

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