Top Three Ways to Strengthen a Scene
One of the self-published books I’m reading now reminded me of these little tricks that took me an ungodly time to figure out and use in a more efficient manner. Many times, after you’ve written a particular scene, some inflexible part of our brain only wants to fix and edit the lines as they are. In this way, the writing-hacks below are a good way to shake things up and tighten a loose, dragging scene. So here goes.
This actually has many different meanings, so let me chop it down into easier to digest pieces.
Far too often, after writing the scene, we need to focus on how it opens. If it starts out weak, the reader will drag and skim. Authors don’t want this. So to fix it, the best thing to do is chop a little of the beginning and this makes complete sense. Usually, when I start writing a scene, I have a particular goal that needs to be achieved but no idea in what way I want it to come out. Later, in the editing process, I save the reader a lot by just chopping off a paragraph or two, getting right to the meat of what’s going on.
Like above, most dialogue when it hits the page, comes at a time when the writing side of my brain hasn’t kicked in and started focusing. For that reason, skimming past the first couple lines not only gets to the exciting part, but also leaves a little of the beginning of the dialogue up to the reader to fill in.
This time, the notion is completely the opposite. By the end of a scene, your writing brain should be churning outs lines with little prodding, but unfortunately, it usually isn’t the best judge. Thus, while re-reading, locating where the most poignant part of the scene lands is crucial. Once you find it, the best thing to do is to let a little bit more flow, and then cut the slack. If you drag an ending out, the reader will have nothing left to look forward to in the next chapter, and will keep leaving your book without that sense of urgency that causes so many of us to read through the night.
This one’s simple but took me forever to get the hang off. When going back through a chapter, check what order the events are presented. Though it may seem logical, and anyone who reads it may understand it clearly, that doesn’t mean it is laid out in the best way. Sometimes moving one part of dialogue forward, or one emotional explosion till later allows the flow of the chapter to keep the readers attention hooked. Too much at one point and too little in another loses your audience just as much as non-stop hitting them in the face with big action. Chapters and books should have a little roller-coaster feel to them. The ups-and-downs make it worthwhile, even in scenes.
Wait! Didn’t you already have this one? Yes, but this is different. Sometimes, the best thing I found to do is to chop a certain aspect out of the scene or leave something unsaid but communicated between characters through body language. This tightens the scene as well because too much dialogue can start lending a ‘talk-heads’ like element to it, and this is just as much a reader killer as well.
I use all of these regularly now and am still shocked (embarrassed?) that I had no clue about them before. Due to this, if you have a writing/editing-hack that works wonders for you—please, please, please share! More tricks in the bag always help.