The Basics of How to Mend a Broken Scene
From a workshop presented by Roxanne St. Claire at RWA Nationals 2011
This workshop was one of the most beneficial workshops I had the privilege of taking at Nationals this year. If this had been the only workshop I had taken, it would have been worth the price of admission. Not only was Ms. St. Claire gracious enough to share with us several examples of her first draft MS to her finished product, she also provided some invaluable information and check lists to go over when mending your raw work. This workshop was not recorded because she didn’t want examples of her early work floating around, so I can’t share those with you. I have been given permission to share with you a summary of her lists.
What makes an effective healthy scene?
*The character goal is clear.
*There is tension regarding THAT goal (and others)
* An arc is completed: beginning, middle, and end
*Story is furthered and complicated
*Reader has more information than they had before
How to recognize your broken scene
* Character goal is not clear
* Scene is full of action, but nothing happens
* Characters are flat, untrue, clichéd, uninvolved, distant
* No identifiable plot point
* Massive amounts of backstory
* Forced, unnatural dialogue
* Huge, unbroken paragraphs of description
* Noticeable lack of emotion, humor, sexual tension or conflict
* Emotion is kept in check when it shouldn’t be
* Scene starts too early or ends too soon
ASK THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
* What does the character want when the scene starts & how are things getting worse?
* Is there a much stronger reason/plot point for a scene?
* Can I make it unforgettable?
* How can the plot be turned on its head to SHOCK the reader or character?
* Can I show the character’s true nature…and the conflict?
* Is the scene as “ier” as it can be (funnier, sexier, scarier, wrenching-ier)?
TEN WAYS TO FIX ANY SCENE:
1) Replace internal monologue to dialogue-if they can say it, it’s stronger
2) Be sure characters are true-stay IN the character’s head
3) Know your character’s goal-both story goal and scene goal
4) Add sexual tension
5) Increase conflict
6) Ass senses and imagery-draw out emotion
7) Don’t back away too soon-dig deep to get the scene completed
8) Draw out emotion
9) Gracefully drop in backstory and description-no dumping
10) Strengthen the hook-at beginning/end of both story and chapter
Miscellaneous notes from Q & A:
- Sometimes fixing a scene means fixing the book.
- Don’t fear rewrites.
- Convey conflict on the scene level.
- Don’t imply sexual tension-SHOW it.
- Dig into the emotional quality of the setting.
Roxanne St. Claire is a New York Times bestselling author of twenty-seven novels of suspense and romance from multiple publishers. Her books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, the National Reader's Choice Award, Booksellers Best, Book Buyers Best, and many others. She can be reached via her website, www.roxannestclaire.com or through her fan page at www.facebook.com/roxannestclaire. You can follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roxannestclaire.