Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Make Every Scene Count or Cut it!

Whether you are writing a picture book, or an adult novel, every scene must count. Ask yourself, "If I remove this scene does it matter?" If the answer is no....get rid of it, or make it matter.

The same can be said for characters, but that's another post.

How many scenes make up a novel? Anyone? Well, I learned there are typically 12 scenes in a movie script. The first 3 consist of exposition and rising action. The next 6 continue rising action to the climax, to the change. The last 3 are the falling action and conclusion.

Take Finding Nemo for example:

Scene 1: We meet Nemo and his overbearing Dad
Scene 2: Nemo goes to his first day of school
Scene 3: Nemo is captured by divers

Scene 4: Marlin chases the boat
Scene 5: Marlin bumps into Dory/She says she can help
Scene 6: 3 sharks find them right as Marlin is leaving her / Nemo is put into tank with other captured fish
Scene 7: Next come the Jellyfish / Nemo gets initiated
Scene 8: Next the turtles / Nemo tries to help them escape
Scene 9: Finally the Pelican that brings Marlin to Nemo at the dentist's office / where he looks dead

Scene 10: Marlin is heart broken / leaves Dory who bumps into Nemo but forgets who he is
Scene 11: Nemo reunited with Dad and helps Fish escape net
Scene 12: Nemo goes to school happy and Marlin is a relaxed dad 

Now in a movie script, there is not much need for description. Think of it like a picture book manuscript. The viewers see the scenes, so you don't have to describe them

If you take this Nemo breakdown and add description, you have a book. That may mean you add scenes, or beef up the ones you've got. But, the break down of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion should remain similar.

Example: Say I have 18 chapters/scenes in my novel. I might break it down like this.

These first 5 being my exposition, and rising action:
Chapter 1      
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

These next 8 being my continued rising to climax and beginning falling action:
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13

These next 5 falling action to conclusion:
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18

The most important thing to remember when you are outlining scenes or chapters, is:

 every single one must count

 Think of it like a recipe. If I were making chocolate chip cookies and I left out the eggs. What would happen?

Go through your scenes and determine if they truly are necessary. If you removed one of them, would the reader be lost? Would your character miss out on something important to the plot? If not, delete it....even if it's your favorite scene. 

I have a folder I call "Deleted Perfections". I'm a little over dramatic, but they are scenes that I fell in love with. They are lyrical. They are beautiful. They did nothing for my character. 

It makes me feel better that I didn't just delete them from Earth. But, I can tell you, I have never opened this folder. They are ultimately not needed, and will probably never be read again.

Another way of thinking of scenes, and whether or not to delete them is this:

Use a recording device and tell yourself a story. Use one that you love to tell, so you've got all the points down.

Next, write an outline of the story. Write everything that you remember. Don't leave out anything here.

Now compare the two stories.

I am betting that the outline is much more in depth, with added scenes, that you did not tell in your recorded version.

We writers tend to embellish on the page, but when we tell a good story out loud, we get right to the main points. 

Get right to the main points in your story. Tell it out loud to yourself if you have to in order to cut extra, unnecessary scenes.

Good Luck,
And as always,

1 comment:

  1. Great advice. I shall hie me back to my manuscript and check. Love your sidebar quotes.