ELEMENTS OF A GOOD SCENE
While writing a novel, especially the first draft, our creative mind takes the lead. The scenes and chapters flow very easily and some of them are so fantastic (at least to our mind 🙂 ) that we fall in love with them. Then comes the revision phase and the internal battle to decide the scene that needs to go to ensure that the flow of the story is tight and gripping.
The first draft of my novel, Dragons of Atlantea, is roughly around 105,000 words. Much, much higher than the industry standard. I’m going to have to be ruthless and cut all the scenes that are unnecessary. So I did some research on novel scenes and here’s what I’ve learnt.
USE SCENES TO CREATE A GRIPPING STORY…
A gripping novel is a string of relevant scenes that take the characters seamlessly from the start to the climax. A good scene that can be retained during revision has at least some of the following elements:
- It reveals a character’s motivation or goal (Eg: Emma wants to win the Olympics)
- It gives us more insight into the character’s backstory (Like: She is from a family where women are expected to marry and look after children. But she has bigger dreams)
- Introduces more conflict and obstacles for the character to overcome (Emma has an accident)
- Show us the consequences of the character conflict (She becomes temporarily blind)
- Reveal a plot point or introduces a plot twist (Help from an unexpected source)
- Increase the tension of the plot/ raise the stakes (Her mother has used the money meant for her medical expenditure to fund her daughter’s dream. Emma has to win to the Olympics and get the prize money to save her mother.)
- Give a solution to a conflict/ problem (Absolutely no idea how she’s going to do that 😀 )
In addition to this, the scene can also give more insights into the following story elements:
- World building
- Story theme
- Character traits
- Leading hints to the plot
If a scene includes more than a few of the above points, it’s great. Scenes with just one or two of elements mentioned above might be weak and should be considered for being cut/ modified.
In fact, one of the plans I have for revision is to cut out the unnecessary details from weak scenes and combine it with others to make it more gripping while at the same time keep the charm and essence of what needs to be conveyed.
Since, as the author, we could be a little biased about our story and scenes, it might be good to get an impartial third-party (friends, beta-readers, critique partners etc.) to help us identify scenes which are weak or irrelevant to the plot.
But in the end, the decision always rests in our hand.
To cut or not to cut….
Chop, chop, chop! 😀