delete_pcI thought I would build on a post from last week about story creation.  In that post I presented the questions I ask myself when I craft a story:  What is the mc’s main problem, what is at stake for the mc, and what is the tension of each and every scene.  This post focuses more specifically on that last question.

I like to read (and consequently write) really tight stories.  Too often I read a book with overwritten prose and unnecessary scenes.  It drives me nuts.  But, because I am a true reader, I read on. 

I don’t want readers to feel that way when they read my stories.  So I focus on each and every scene, picking apart its own internal story arc, and seeing how it specifically contributes to the story as a whole.

In my opinion, each scene in a story has its own arc – its own emotional story.  I ask myself questions – How does this push the character forward?  Does it help them solve the initial problem?  Does it create new problems? Does help the reader gain a better sense of what’s at stake for the character? Does it move the character towards some sort of resolution? 

 By answering these questions I am able to figure out whether or not the scene is relevant in and of itself – and whether or not it moves the story forward.  If the answer is no to either question, it will wind up in the trash – every time.

If I am doing my job as a storyteller well, each scene moves the reader to the next flawlessly.  Each scene is fulfilling in its own right.  Each scene is necessary.

That does not mean that each scene needs to have some sort of resolution.  Some of the best leave the reader screaming for more.  And as my crit buddies know, I  LOVE making the reader scream for more!  But it does mean that the scene leaves the reader feeling fulfilled – feeling like they did NOT waste their time by reading it.  I can think of a few books I have read over the last year that failed in that regard.  In fact, I have been know to read some scenes and literally “fast forward” to the end of the scene – all because the scene was not needed.  Not relevant.

So – your turn…how do you ensure that each scene has a purpose to your story?  Do you find this important too?  How do you decide which things will wind up in the digit trash can?




6 thoughts on “When to hit delete on that scene.

  1. I’ve been meaning to tell you, I really love reading your blog. I relate well to much of what you say, and I like the way you think about (and describe) your writing process.

    I don’t care for unnecessary scenes, either, though it’s difficult to tell what’s unnecessary in my own writing until I go back for a read-through. My paring down to tight story-telling is like searching for a diamond in the rough – I look for the what’s-the-point? in each scene, cut any scene without a diamond, then clean up the rest of the scenes so the diamond shines and is not buried by unnecessary distractions.

  2. Awww but come on! Sometimes we really want to hear about EVERY SINGLE move a character makes, from the moment they sit down at the table for dinner to every bite they take of their Double Whopper with cheese!

    heehee, I couldn’t resist.

    I am guilty of this, though. I’ve had a few people come back to me and say “so, uh, what was the point of that chapter?” When I don’t have a good answer for this, that’s when the delete button comes out. And I’ve had chapters that I’ve LOVED that pretty much ended up on the cutting room floor because they had no point. But they were fun to write at the time!

  3. I was going through part of my novel where the pace had been slow (according to my critter friend) and I came to a scene that I thought was important. Like the other scenes before it, I started to look for ways to cut it down when I realized what I need to do. I didn’t need to cut it down. I needed to cut it out. Delete it completely. Turns out it wasn’t so important after all. 😀

  4. I read and write like this too. And sometimes you’re forced to examine what you’ve got. And sometimes it’s not good enough, or not needed. And it’s hard to cut. Seriously. Hard.

    But that’s okay. If it’ll make the book better, why are we holding onto it anyway? You know?

    So yeah. I get rid of the stuff that doesn’t help me out. Now, sometimes that’s hard to see, so I rely on others to ask me the hard questions — after all I can do, of course.


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