I’m going to give you a secret on to how to write a killer scene. Are you ready for a very easy and very effective scene writing tip?
Come in Late, Leave Early
Jean, what does “come in late, leave early” mean? And what does that have to do with writing a killer scene?
Let me explain.
Come in Late
When writing a good scene, you want to come in late. In other words, once the action is underway. There always has to be some movement or the reader gets bored. For example, I just cut a scene last week where I was not coming in late by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, my character was sitting with her grandmother DISCUSSING what action she should take and her gran suggested some ideas.
So I came in late. I scratched that scene and opened the next scene of Champagne and Lemon Drops with Beth already taking the action.
The benefit? The reader has to play catch up. Not so much that they feel as though they missed something huge and give up, but enough that they are curious. What is Beth doing? What is her plan? Who is she going to see? They know there is action because they are in it. And not having it all laid out beforehand I’ve created a hook that draws them in.
In other words, a knowledge deficient has been created. When humans realize they are missing a piece of information, they become naturally curious and want to fill that knowledge gap. And if you can create that in your scenes you are going to draw your readers in.
On the flipside, you have the end of your scene. By leaving early, you are getting out of the scene before things get drawn out and boring. If you are lucky (or talented or hardworking or all of the above) you will end your scene with another hook. Yes, start each scene with a hook and end each scene with a hook. Why? To draw the reader in to the next scene. Make them want to keep reading. Make them NEED to keep reading. They HAVE to know what happens.
Leaving early might appear as though the main conflict of the scene has been resolved, but the scene ends before the new conflict introduced in your scene (this can be your end of scene hook!) has been resolved. So, one conflict leads to the next–even if it is minor.
In that same scene mentioned above I had the scene end with her best friend saying she is going to take action–she’s going to try and solve a problem Beth hasn’t been able to. So… what happens wonders the reader. And then, to be extra cruel, the next scene moves into a new issue and only provides the follow-up to that previous end of the scene hook part way into the new scene. See how we keep it going? It’s the kind of ‘cruelty’ that pays off for the reader by keeping them reading out of curiosity.
How about you? Do you have scenes where you can come late and leave early to enhance the reader experience? Take a look at your manuscript with this in mind. Let me know what you do in the comment section.
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