Now I can’t confirm this (darn you, Google!) but I have a very clear memory of reading somewhere (Danse Macabre, maybe?) that Stephen King felt the bathtub scene in The Shining was the hardest scene for him to write, that he freaked himself out so much he repeatedly had to get up and walk away from the page.
Would you believe I had to do the exact same thing to get through a certain scene in Little Gale Gumbo?
(Well, only without the, you know, terrifying hallucination of someone being seduced by a decomposing body thing.)
Now the truth is that there are a lot of reasons why a scene may be hard to write. Like Mr. King’s experience, the scene can feel be a bit too real. Or maybe it goes on too long because you simply can’t contain it.
In my case, the hardest scene I think I’ve ever had to write was the scene where Jack and Dahlia first meet in Little Gale Gumbo. Now when I say hard, I mean it was hard when I started the novel, hard when I went through subsequent drafts, and hard in the eleventh hour when I was allowed one more pass before handing it over FOR GOOD to production. And even then, I was still fighting my way through that darn scene!
Why? It wasn’t as if I didn’t love these characters (I did!) and it wasn’t as if I didn’t want them to fall deeply in love (Ditto!), so why was it like pulling teeth to get ten lines of their dialog onto one bloody page?
Er, I think I just answered my own question.
For those of you who have read Little Gale Gumbo, you know that we first meet Jack and Dahlia twenty years after they were high school sweethearts. We spend a good deal of the start of the book aware that there is a passion between them that has never quite been extinguished, a passion that has held strong for twenty years, and through a number of other relationships, including Jack’s previous marriage. So when the story takes us back to witness the first time they meet, we know we can expect fire.
No pressure, right????
Now we all know introductions are hard. They’re hard in life, they’re hard in literature. They’re awkward, hurried, often times even grossly inaccurate. But let’s face it: they matter. A lot.
What’s more, I knew this one would have to be a quick scene. Jack and Dahlia would intersect at the condiment stand in the high school cafeteria. There wouldn’t be time for introductions. There wouldn’t be time for a languid building of tension.
There’d only be time for Le Smolder.
Well. Eventually, the scene came together.
And for that matter, so did Jack and Dahlia.
So what about you all? Ever had an introduction scene you couldn’t nail for the longest time?
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