I am guilty of underwriting. Or should I say, I was?
I began writing fiction via short stories where the story happens within a short span of time. You cannot indulge in long descriptions of either the place, the person or the emotions in a short story.
When I started writing my novel, my technique of writing was the same. I used to treat each chapter like a short story with a clear beginning, a middle and an end. It is perfect as far as scene structure goes. But what about the details?
As a result, my first drafts are often the thinner versions of my final book. I add in details later. Once I have laid down the rough draft of the story, the next phase is adding in scene details. With writing software like Scrivener, I can do this easily.
What are the details that should go into a memorable scene?
Details of the place: Use the senses to describe the smells, sounds and emotions the place evokes in the character. You can also talk about the geographic location of the place if the character is new to the place.
Emotions: The emotions of the characters add depth to the scenes and story. Describe the emotion using the last scene as a reference. What is the current emotion of your character? The previous scene in your story must have affected the character in some way. Describe it.
Reactions of the character: We react to every important moment in our lives. We react viscerally, emotionally, physically and intellectually to any occurrence, exactly in that order. So should our characters.
And yet each character will react to a particular action in their own unique way. A girl who is scared of cockroaches would scream and run the moment she sees one. She won’t pause to think logically as to whether the tiny cockroach can harm her.
Similarly, a man scared of heights would panic the moment he realizes he is at the edge of a cliff.
Find and write down appropriate reactions of your characters.
Dialogues: Dialogues are a very important element in your novel. Crisp, meaningful dialogues that take the story forward should be included in your scenes. Dialogues are considered as 'action' in any scene. Hence you are showing and not telling by using them.
What else should we consider?
Every scene in your book should do either of the two things or both:
- Reveal character
- Take the story further
If it doesn't do either of these, the scene doesn’t belong in your book. You can remove it.
The final goal of the main character should be there as an undercurrent in any major scene. It should be the driving power of the story.
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