Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Do Your Scenes Have Purpose

In recent weeks, I have seen an increasingly number of submissions as well as published books that seem to ramble all over the place. What I am seeing are authors inserting scenes and events in their stories that really serve no purpose other than to add word count or create a plot device just to get characters together. The problem with this approach is the writing does come across as rambling (as I stated) or having no real purpose.

I am sure I have talked about this here on the blog before, but maybe it is time for a reminder.

Everything you do in your story must advance the plot. The key word here is PLOT. You will notice I did not say word count. Successful authors do not just add things to their stories to make it longer. This is something I hear a lot of when I reject an author who has a story that is well under word count for most publishers. They often respond with, I can add more scenes in the early part of the book where the characters are together. This is just "stuff". What will those scenes do to advance the plot?

In most cases, when authors just add stuff like this, the story becomes repetitious. Seeing the hero and heroine argue over their relationship once is fine. Seeing them do the same thing, using the same words, over and over again just gets mind-numbing. 

I also talked about using scenes strictly as plot devices. In this case, it is a scene or event that does nothing. A common approach I see is when an author wants to get the hero and heroine to meet. These are two characters who would never, in the real world, ever get together. But the author, with this intent to bring these two together forces the subject. He backs his car into her car in a parking lot. The accident does nothing to show us more about the characters. It probably has absolutely nothing to do with the central plot. It just forced these two characters together. 

When I was doing theater, I had a director who openly state he would rather all of the actors just stand on the stage and never move. He often found people just wandering aimlessly around the stage. Movement for the sake of movement. His comment was simple. If the character needs to get from one side of the stage to another, there has to be a reason for it that makes sense, fits with the character, and fits within the play. 

So, as you think about your stories today, think about WHY you are adding that scene. Think about WHY you have that character do something. Even think about WHY you added that extra character. Are they really needed?

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