What was your hardest scene to write?
The challenges that present when writing a scene vary from one writing project to another. A manuscript can have multiple difficult scenes taxing authors, making time drag as the cursor flashes or notebook page sits untouched, leaving them all kinds of frustrated.
Scene troubles may involve persistent issues with the plot’s structure, or they may be thematic and restricted to one manuscript.
Author Achilles Heels
Narrative building in genre fiction is more than writing words. Generating a story idea and its execution involves applying numerous literary tools, following conventions (which differs between genres), and knowing when to break them. Some plot points may be easier for authors to draft.
A writer may fly through the beginning of the plot structure only to consistently stall in the middle. A weak middle can cause some execution stress when writing chapters and scenes. It’s called sagging middle syndrome for a reason. Tension building can be arduous and traumatic, which is not good. The characters should be getting all flustered from drama, not the author.
Giving characters a satisfying resolution may be a problem every project. Characters achieving their story’s goal is only part of providing a gratifying end. I often read authors expressing that they don’t want the story to end because they are so in love with the characters. The infatuation is sweet and common, but come on. Readers want an ending scene where those lovable protagonists find some level of equilibrium and contentment (or not), and antagonists get their comeuppance. It is the stuff that makes storytelling great.
Authors may have no trouble with the mayhem and solutions. For them, reaching the inciting incident and climax is a problem. Exposition is critical to grabbing readers and getting them vested in the characters. The opening scene needs to have a balance of description, characterization, and exposition that pulls readers in and hooks them into turning those pages or swiping that screen—not an easy feat.
There are millions of journals and computer files with story ideas left unfinished for want of a scene that eludes or traps an author. The characters of my first (attempt at a) story are still in a damn hotel room. I tried to get them out, but no. They are just sitting there.
Maybe I will liberate them one day. Today is not that day. Authors get stuck in a scene for many reasons. Part of a story may not be flowing. The execution—getting the characters to do and say what you want—could be off. The scene’s subject may be difficult to address.
Love scenes baffle a lot of writers, mainly the level of intimacy and description. My readers know I have no problem with turning up the heat.—
Stop it, Poldark! Where was I? Oh, yeah. If the content is new or something that makes a writer uncomfortable (i.e., violence, abuse, etc.), it will affect the ability to write a scene. I had the hardest time with a domestic abuse scene in one of the Brothers in Law manuscripts. I was a little too comfortable describing the violence and heartache from the victim’s point of view. I kept reining myself in for fear of being too graphic, and my writing faltered as I struggled between what I expected readers to handle and the character’s experience.
I also had to tackle with my visceral responses to the savagery. If an author doesn’t have any while they are writing, then there is something wrong. On top of the mental blocks I set up, I had to contend with shaky hands and a racing heart. Okay, hold on a second. Woosah!
Struggling with scene content is more than writer’s block. The writer may know what to write—the words and tools are all there—but the emotional toll may prevent completion. Talking it out and recognizing the reason that the keyboard remains silent for a particular scene helps.
Story writing is ripe with challenges, but none of them are insurmountable. So, stretch, grab a water bottle and dig in to give readers one.