Is It Needed: Deciding When to Write a Scene or Skip It

March 18, 2015

This month we’re talking about spring cleaning our manuscripts.  So far we’ve looked at salvaging scenes and text as well as deciding from which character’s point of view a scene should be told.  Today, we’re going to tackle an even bigger topic: when should a scene be written at all?

When thinking about scenes, you first must determine if it’s a scene or sequel.  There’s much debate in the writing community lately about whether or not there even is a cadence such as scene and sequel.  But for the sake of this blog, we’ll say there is.  A scene is a block of action in which something happens.  The sequel is when the character takes time to think about what just happened.

So with that in mind, let’s answer some questions to determine when and if a scene is needed.

Does it move the plot forward?

In the beginning of A Countess Most Daring, there is a scene that I wrote before the opening of the book.  It’s a lovely scene between Thatcher and Kate, giving Thatcher many moments to be funny.  But when sent to my editor, my editor said, the action of the scene doesn’t start until Thatcher pretends to have a vision.  Start the scene there.  The previous scene where Thatcher was being funny did not drive the plot forward.  So the scene was scrapped.

Does the scene contain a plot point?

Again, let’s talk about Kate and Thatcher.  In the opening scene before the opening scene, nothing happened.  There was no plot point in the first 2,000 words of the book.  So no, the scene was not necessary because nothing happened.

Does it show the character in a new light or increase tension?

In the original opening scene, Kate and Thatcher were very much like they had been at the end of For Love of the EarlThere was nothing new about their characters.  There was no tension.  Thatcher was just being funny.  There was no need for the scene to exist.

Today’s tip: This list can keep going, but these three points are key when determining if a scene is necessary or should be included in a manuscript.  Always use this as a starting point for determining if a scene should be written.

Next week, we’ll cover one of my favorite topics: dialogue tags.

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