“Favorite” Type of Scenes?! Is this a trick question?

This week, our topic is, “What types of scenes do you like to write and why?” 

This seems a bit like a trick question. I’m not sure I like or dislike any type of scene more than the others. 

Here’s how I feel about it right now: sitting down to work almost always pains me. I usually have to trick or guilt myself into it, even though I desperately want to have written, and even though I technically like writing. 

That said, once I actually begin working, my favorite moments to write are the ones in which I surprise myself. This has happened during all kinds of scenes — flashbacks, inner-thinking reflections, and big action scenes.

Here are some tips and tricks for scenes that have worked for me:

  • One of my writing teachers, Mary Carroll Moore, taught me to, near the beginning of a project, open a notebook to a back page and quickly brainstorm a list of 20-30 scenes that might appear in my novel at some point. Then, when I’m starting a writing session and feel blocked, I can choose from a list of events I’ve pre-decided.
  • Mary also taught me to categorize each scene as action, flashback, or reflection, and then not to stack up more than one flashback or reflection in a row. More action is better. In fact, more action is necessary.
  • If I’m wondering where a scene ends, it’s usually behind me–I’ve probably already written the ending and/or the heart.
  • A scene has to have all the elements of a story in it to be successful–it has to have it’s own conflict, arc, and function within itself. If it doesn’t, it probably has to go.
  • I usually have to write two scenes in order to get one I’m going to keep. I wish I could speed this process and write fewer words on the way to my final 95k, but so far I can’t.
  • If I know my characters well, they’ll surprise me in all the best ways. I didn’t know Henry was going to tell Andrew in MINOR DRAMAS that “no one ever really earns anything” until he did it. I also didn’t know Julia was going to say to Tracy, “You don’t admire me.” Those two moments are among my favorite quiet ones in the whole book, and I didn’t plan them out ahead of time. I just made myself sit there and type the words.
  • Plan to write and re-write your big scenes many times to get the pacing right. It’s really hard for me not to rush when I know a big moment is coming.

Do you have a favorite type of scene to write? I don’t, but I like having written any scenes at all, and I like it even more if I’ll be able to keep them.

The following two tabs change content below.

Kathleen West

Kathleen West is the author of the forthcoming novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out 2/4/20 from Berkley. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.

Leave a Reply