Are you wondering which scenes to include in a book? In this post, we reveal seven scenes you won’t find in good fiction writing.
Good books and great fiction all have their flaws, but better books have fewer bad scenes. Today we will look at a few types of terrible scenes that I’m sure we all skim through.
These scenes can bore, mislead, derail, fragment, and worst or all, make the reader put the book down. So, let’s save some trees and cut these awful scenes straight out of our first drafts.
7 Scenes You Won’t Find In Good Fiction Writing
1. Minor Characters
Minor characters are fun to write because after spending months with the main character you will be bored of them.
But, the reader often will not care. They might even resent the time being taken away from the main story. So, unless your minor character is important to the plot and helps move the story along just get rid of them.
A good example is the Tom Bombadil chapter in The Lord of the Rings. It was so pointless to the story that the movies, and even there 12 hour director’s cut version, left it out altogether.
[Use our Character Creation Kit to create great characters for your stories.]
2. Filling In Dead Time
Getting from point A to point B is generally boring. So, we cut it from our stories. But, you might need to say how your characters got there for the plot.
It’s fine just to state it as quickly as possible.
‘The Mandalorian engaged his hyperspace drive and arrived at the planet’, will do nicely. You don’t need to make a whole scene out of it.
‘Ten Years Later.’
When there has been a time jump you may feel obligated to fill your reader in on the details straightaway.
Don’t do this! The point of the time skip it to create a blank space where anything could have happened. It is a great set-up for a mystery, so let it build for a while.
You can then spend the whole novel doling out bread crumbs until the climax and the big reveal. If you have an exposition dump scene why even bother with the time jump in the first place?
I also bet you clicked the ‘skip recap’ button last time you watch a TV show.
4, Research Dumps
Well-researched novels are wonderful. They are accurate and the educate us.
But, just because you spent a month in Venice learning about glass-blowing techniques does not mean you have to integrate it into your plot.
Basically, everything Dan Brown writes does this and not well. Conversely, Terry Pratchett does a good job of this in Making Money and Raising Steam where it’s not obvious that the author is just writing about something they saw on holiday.
5. But It’s My Favourite
Some scenes are dear to us. They are our ‘Darlings’ and we can’t bear to cut them.
To determine if you have a ‘darling’, remove it from the manuscript and ask a friend to read the scenes around it.
Then ask another friend to read the scenes with it left in. If they both come away with the same impression of the story then it can be safely removed.
Although it might still be painful to the author.
For example, see how George R.R. Martin describes food scenes and then do the opposite.
6. Overly Long Description Or A White Void?
But, with too much of this, your writing becomes heavy and slow and you run the risk of not being read. 80% of the time when I see pages without dialogue I sigh and grit my teeth through it. If this happens on every second page, I give up on the author.
This is common when famous authors write sequels to well received books. Harry Potter is a good example. People complain particularly about the fourth book.
[If you want to learn more about setting and how to use it for your story, buy: Setting Up The Setting Workbook]
7. Where’s The Plot?
It’s fine to sprinkle worldbuilding and fun side characters into a story. They are like sprinkles on a cake. They add a certain appeal to it.
But, they can also make it look cheap. The more toppings you have the harder it is to see just what it is you are eat… reading.
Besides that, a healthy, lean book leaves a reader invigorated and wanting more.
Detective books, good detective books, makes sure that all the ingredients form a cohesive and stable story, and when fully baked the product tastes just right.
The more you dilute your book with scenes that have nothing to do with the plot, the less it resembles your original intention. After a while flour, butter, and egg-free cake just isn’t cake any more.
The Final Word
‘Make sure you have cleansed your novel with the holy fire of an editor’s pen or face the wrath of a thousand rejection letters.’ -Me, Just Now
Seriously, if you can just keep the big picture in mind, you won’t fall into any of these traps. And, your book will be the better for it.
Written, then re-written by Christopher Luke Dean (I think I’ll go make cupcakes.)
Christopher writes and facilitates for Writers Write. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisLukeDean