Fiction scene, that is.
This thought prompted by recent Writing Group session during which I had to bite my tongue.
I ask myself several questions when I approach a scene:
A. Why is this here?
Aside from explosions, automatic weapons, snarky one-liners, and gun-porn, the scene has to have traction. It has to contribute to the narrative, character development, and/or tension somehow. It must move the story along, and seeing as my current style involves multiple storylines, I can’t afford chapters that are simply a meat by-product filler. When I request critical review, I want to know if I accomplished that or not.
B. Did I homogenize the characters?
Are my characters’ actions/reactions, motives, attitudes, descriptive features strong and clear? Are they internally consistent within the scene? With previous scenes? Are my characters distinct from each other, or did I cuisinart everyone into a mealy trope? Tell me if they all blur together.
C. What Worked? What Didn’t?
Is it fresh or predictable? Salted with cliches or did it pique your interest? Was the pace good and appropriate, or did speed humps jar you out of the story? I want to keep doing what worked. Drop what didn’t.
The reason I join writing groups and seek critical review for work in progress is to become a better writer, not simply feel better about my writing. Or even feel better about myself. Trust me – I’ll feel good if I’ve written well.
Orsen Scott Card said Readers ask themselves Three Questions when they crack open a book:
So What? – why should I care about this story and it’s characters?
Oh Yeah? – Is this world and its people credible? Internally plausible and consistent?
Hunh? – Is the writing, the story clear? Am I able to follow and figure out what is going on?
Those questions haunt me. They perch like cathedral gargoyles atop my monitor and stare as I peck away, re-read, revise, wrestle with words. They cackle, jeer, poke and annoy the hell out of me. Every time. I’m not looking for an Exorcist.
I figure I’ll slay them myself in due time.