Thursday, May 3, 2012

Clinging to a Scene

I know this has happened to me and I'm sure it has to many writers and that is the tendency to cling to a scene. This scene may be one you're proud of having written. You may have written it to prove a point. The scene may have sprung from research and you want to tell it all. Then comes the kicker. Your critique group tells you things like, this scene doesn't belong, or even that they doon't understand what or why you've written a particular scene, but you cling to your scene. You just love it. Then your first reader has the entire manuscript. There are raves about the story but there's a scene they don't think works. But it's your "favorite" scene. You know what it's supposed to do in the story. This becomes a second strike against this scene, but you persist. Writers can be stubborn about their "brain" children. So it's off to the editor who says they want to buy the book. You feel justified for clinging to that scene. Then comes the editor's comments and your very favorite scene is circled in red or marked in some way. "This scene doesn't work. But it's my favorite scene. The editor may even comment that the scene is well written but it doesn't belong in the story.

What to do? You can just pull the scene out of the story but that may leave a hole you need to plug. Or the story may be perfectly right without the scene no one seems to like, except you. If the scene doesn't add to the story in one of three ways, to develop the plot, to add to character development or to provide the reader with needed information, toss it. Or save it for another story where it may find a fit.

If removing the scene takes something vital to the story, consider re-writing the scene. Look at the elements of the scene. Decide what kind of scene it's supposed to be. Does it add depth to the plot, then see where you went wrong. If it's a characterization bit, decide if this is the best way to show a character's nature. If it's information the reader needs, check to make sure you haven't made the info so obtuse no one but you as the writer can understand. Or have you shoved the info in the reader's face, making them look like an idiot. The scene you love may be in the wrong place in the story. You may need to move it forward or backwards. Try re-working this scene that you cling to with stubborn determination. If this works, pat yourself on the back. If it doesn't, let the scene go. Sometimes a story can't move forward when you keep clinging to a scene that works for no one but yourself.


  1. This will happen to me more often with screenplays where frugality is king. I have learned that no matter how much you love a scene - if you feel criticism is justified then lose it. Its amazing how fast you'll forget it ever existed.

  2. You have written about one of the biggest pains in the, well, choose your anatomical part, when it comes to writing. On the other hand, I have found that most of the time, I've simply written a scene that belongs in a different story and I wind up using it later with just a few tweaks. Much to be said for recycling!

  3. Oh, but I love this scene. I can't part with it. How many times have I said those words? My crit group is usually right though, so cut, cut, cut. And many times, like Ophelia says, it will work in another story, with the different characters.