Writing Skill-Grid is where I, like any good male Final Fantasy character, complete with awesome spiky hair and a non-quite-so-hairy chest, attempt to fill up small icons on my writerly growth grid. All done in the hopes of improving my skills and watching my growth take place over time.
(Also it’s a way for me to self-scrutinize and put myself on mental blast every week hahahaha I’m screaming internally for doing this)
Craft of the Screenwriter (US) is a book wherein a group of noted screenwriters discuss the best skills and methods they’ve had to writing film. Some of those rules, as it turns out, translate well to novels.
William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All The President’s Men, The Princess Bride) said, “You always attack a movie scene as late as you possibly can. You always come into the scene at the last possible moment.”
Translation: Start a scene as late as possible, and get out as soon as possible. Don’t let any awkward, lingering scenes hang on.
If you want to have a scene, where two characters are talking in a bar after narrowly escaping their pursuers in a market, end the scene with them running away, then begin the next scene with them already in the bar. Don’t write them running down the alleyway and walking in the front door if that part doesn’t actually matter or reveal character.
(I’m saying this one-half to experiment, and one-half to keep it fresh in my mind because the chapter I’m about to write features a scene very similar to this.)
Instead of writing:
The duo narrowly escaped, running down the alley, fearful the pursuers were behind them. Where were they to go? What were they to do? Hide behind the dumpsters? Jump into the horse pit? Instead, they saw up ahead a small tavern. It looked like a tavern at least, and decided to run inside. John didn’t look back to see if the pursuers were still behind them, instead, he kept running.
Now, that’s not soooooo bad, but honestly, I don’t care at this point there’s any hesitation or tension. The scene prior I would have written a large commotion, where the people chasing them were distracted, so of course they wouldn’t have been followed.
Instead, I’m going to pick up right in the bar and create a sense of danger as they sit down, to get the scene started and skip all the boring stuff in the middle. And maybe that’s the way I need to think about scenes: Is. This. Boring?
John and Mary raised their hands over their menus, propped open so they stood as small screens, covering their faces. John ordered a beer, and Mary ordered a Scotch. Neither was really thirsty, they just wished to not be seen as awkward for stumbling in and finding a seat in the back. Through the crack in the middle, Mary saw no one come in after them, and began to question John about the missing diamonds and rubies.
Again, maybe not the best bit of writing, but a preferable nice switch over. The action of the next scene has already started. I was able to catch up readers in the space between plot (John and Mary check to see if they were followed; the mood is tense). This keeps the story moving, and I’d get out once all necessary information was revealed.
Time to get the pages done!
Project: HARP, handwritten MG fantasy novel, due June 30. ~240 pages
Current Page Count: 29 pages
Needed Page Count: 211 pages