Has this ever happened to you: Something that you’ve written seems to work in rough draft form, but once you go back and begin to fine-tune and revise, you find that it’s sticking out like a sore thumb and really needs to be fixed?
Well, that’s exactly what happened to me recently. A friend was copy editing my YA novel and when she came to one scene, she told me that as a reader, it wasn’t really working for her. And after rereading it objectively, I had to agree: It could definitely be improved. Though I wasn’t exactly sure how, I asked myself a few key questions that pointed me in the direction of a better scene. Since some of you may be facing the same situation, I thought I’d pass on the questions I came up with in the hopes that they might prove useful:
Does this scene ring true in terms of character? When I asked myself this, I had to admit that the answer was no. One of the character’s actions just did not seem in keeping with her personality. She’s lively but empathetic, but in the original scene I wrote, she seemed aggressive and somewhat harsh.
Have I fully mined this scene for its dramatic potential? After asking myself this, I had to answer no again. The scene seemed small and rushed relative to the information it revealed. I realized that I needed to blow it up and slow it down so that its importance would be magnified instead of minimized.
Did I accomplish what I set out to do? Yes and no to this one. On a very basic level, my original scene did advance my plot, which was one goal I had for it. But on a deeper level, I wanted to show my heroine realizing something about her situation as the scene unfolded — and this goal wasn’t really achieved.
Is there a simple way I can make this scene more powerful? Luckily, the answer to this question was yes. At this stage in my revision, even small plot changes seem like a big deal, so anything I can do to streamline the change process is all to the good. I came up with a simple, but more effective opening and then thought of a very simple shift in point of view that would make the scene richer and more intriguing. Now, I’m actually looking forward to writing it.
When you have a scene that isn’t really working, how do you handle it? I’d love to hear any techniques that work for you. Write on!