Monday, September 16, 2013

Amping up Your Scenes

Has anyone who’s read your writing had a luke warm response? Have agents ever just felt so-so about your manuscript? While there are many subjective reasons why someone might not like your novel, there is also the chance that the scenes in your novel are not entertaining enough, or worse, purposeless.

Believe it or not, this happens. A lot.

Don’t Skip over Important Details
It’s funny that while readers like conflict, sometimes writers shy away from delivering it. If the protagonist needs to steal a prized artifact to forward the plot, don’t skim over the scene. This does happen more than you’d think, and you might even be doing it yourself. The only time you should really skim over a section is if it consists of filler or contains only a minor detail amongst a sea of filler. (To learn more about what filler is and how you should avoid it, click here.)

Ask Yourself, Why?
When you go through your manuscript, ask yourself what the purpose of each scene is. For instance, if you have your main character go to the deli, ask yourself why it is important for the reader to know about this. And I’ll give you a hint, if you’re illustrating the setting to the reader, this scene will need to be either removed or enhanced. Otherwise, it will slow down your book’s momentum, and from there you can lose reader interest.

If you go through the entire day of your main character—from the moment he wakes up, to the shower he takes and the meal he eats—that’s a huge red flag that you need to be asking yourself why the reader should care. Almost always this is an indicator that you need to tighten up your story and thin these sections out.

Finally, Ask Yourself, How Can I Make this Better?
This is an exercise I often advise writers to try out. I challenge them, and now you, to go through each scene and see what aspects would make it even more thrilling and intense. Here is an example:

Scene where main character is picking out a prom dress.

How can you make it better?
Perhaps your main character (MC) runs into her nemesis. Now you have a confrontation.

How can you make it even better?
Maybe that nemesis is holding hands with the boyfriend of your MC’s best friend.

How can you make it even better?
Maybe your MC is meeting up with that same best friend to try on prom dresses, and now your MC faces the dilemma of keeping the news a secret or spilling the beans. That is, if the best friend doesn’t walk in on this herself.

You can keep doing this as much as you want. Just remember that there actually is such a thing as too much excitement, so be watchful of never crossing the line from exciting to unbelievable.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services


  1. All good advice, Laura. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Soooo guilty of no 1. Hopefully not the others too :D
    Very informative post :)